Managing Pain After Surgery
Dealing with post-surgery pain begins before your operation.
Start Before Surgery continued...
Many people, he says, haven’t discussed possible medication side effects
with their physician and are caught off guard. Often, side effects will cause
people to stop taking their medication. This may be a mistake.
"Just because you had a side effect with one medication doesn’t mean we
can’t try another that has fewer side effects," Fraifeld says.
Nausea, in particular, presents a problem for many people taking pain
medication. Fraifeld advises people who often get nausea to inform their
surgeons ahead of time that that is a likely problem for them.
"There are medications we can put people on ahead of time to reduce
[nausea]… or we can change the anesthetic technique entirely," Fraifeld
Develop a plan for when you go home. Ask your doctor about what
can be done to ensure that your pain will be properly addressed once you leave
the hospital. This is particularly important to your long-term recovery.
"Unfortunately, there are still a lot of doctors who don’t adequately treat
post-operative pain," Fraifeld says. "People get pain medication that lasts
three, four, or six hours at most, and are told to take it twice a
day. That’s clearly inadequate."
After your surgery, it’s important that you communicate openly with your
doctors and nurses about what you’re feeling while you recover.
Talk about your pain. Now is not the time to tough it out. If you
have pain -- whether it's at the site of the incision or elsewhere in your body
-- tell your doctors and nurses. They will be better able to keep you
comfortable if you are very descriptive about where and how much it
Stay ahead of your pain. A common mistake people make, according to
Fraifeld, is waiting too long to take pain medication. By the time you’re in
pain, you’re starting from behind the eight ball. "It takes a lot more medicine
to control pain after it’s started as opposed to starting it ahead of time," he
Stick to the medication schedule set by the doctor. That will keep
medication flowing through your system and your level of pain at a more even
and manageable level.
Conditions that Complicate Pain Management
Pre-existing medical conditions can complicate pain management after
surgery. According to Fraifeld, there are a few conditions that commonly
interfere with post-surgical pain management.
If you have a chronic pain condition, your body may be under additional
stress because following surgery you’ll likely feel the pain you’ve been
experiencing, as well as pain associated with the surgery.
In addition, people with chronic pain conditions often take medication to
manage it. Long-term use of pain medication can lead to medication tolerance,
meaning the drugs don’t work as well as they once did to block pain and that
greater dosages are needed to get the same effect. This makes post-surgery
discomfort much more difficult to manage. With prior knowledge of your
condition, Fraifeld says, your doctor has the opportunity to coordinate with
other care providers managing your chronic pain and to choose medications that
will help to keep you comfortable.