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Pain Management Health Center

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Managing Pain After Surgery

Dealing with post-surgery pain begins before your operation.

Start Before Surgery continued...

Learn about possible side effects of pain medication and what you can do about them. One of the problems with opioids, a commonly used class of post-surgery pain medications, is that they have side effects, Fraifeld says. "Not just drowsiness and sedation, but you’ve got nausea, urinary retention, and constipation, which cause a lot of other significant effects and prolongs the healing."

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 says.

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 hurts.

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