Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Pain Management Health Center

Font Size

Managing Pain After Surgery

Dealing with post-surgery pain begins before your operation.

Conditions that Complicate Pain Management continued...


Often, for fear of being stigmatized, people with addiction issues will keep very quiet about it, leaving their doctor in the dark.

It is common for people recovering from addiction to refuse opioid treatment, Fraifeld says. Those being treated for addiction with methadone can also face more difficulty controlling their pain after surgery. Without prior knowledge, Fraifeld says, doctors often scratch their heads in confusion wondering why their efforts to manage someone’s pain are not working.

Tell your surgeon about addiction issues ahead of time, so that they can work with the maintenance program treating your addiction to manage your pain while controlling the level of narcotics you’re being given.

Most people with addictions don't end up in relapse because of pain medication use following a surgery, "but it takes a lot of communication and coordination," Fraifeld says.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea – in which people briefly stop breathing while they sleep – is a condition that's particularly important to discuss with your surgeon. Common pain medications can affect breathing patterns, which puts people with sleep apnea at a higher risk for complications, Fraifeld notes.  He recommends that people with sleep apnea bring their continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to the hospital to assist their breathing while they sleep.


Manage Post-Surgical Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety and depression can make pain worse and much more difficult to manage. Understandably, both are very common in people having surgery.

But there is hope. There are various therapies available to treat the symptoms of anxiety and depression.   

Social issues can also emotional issues. For example, an elderly person who is having surgery to fix a broken a hip may realize that the incident will require him or her to change living conditions. A parent who has four children at home to care for will understandably feel anxious about their kids' well-being while they are away undergoing surgery. These issues should be openly discussed with your doctors and nurses as well.

"Sometimes you have to bring in social workers, family, and other members of the community," Fraifeld says. "It’s difficult for physicians to be responsible for all the social issues, but you at least have to be cognizant of them and to just look into alternative ways to work around these other problems."

Managing anxiety and depression after surgery, whether with medication or social support often reduces the need for pain medication, Fraifeld says, and is extremely important for long-term recovery.

Reviewed on March 12, 2010

Today on WebMD

pain in brain and nerves
Top causes and how to find relief.
knee exercise
8 exercises for less knee pain.
acupuncture needles in woman's back
How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
chronic pain
Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
illustration of nerves in hand
lumbar spine
Woman opening window
Man holding handful of pills
Woman shopping for vegetables
Sore feet with high heel shoes
acupuncture needles in woman's back
man with a migraine