How Can I Manage My Pain?
When you have surgery, you can expect to have some level of pain. Depending on the kind of surgery, it might be mild or intense.
Whatever you do, DO NOT compare your pain to someone else’s. Everybody has their own unique pain experience.
How much pain you have depends on the kind of surgery you had, how involved it was, whether you were on narcotics before surgery, your pain tolerance level, and previous pain experiences.
- If you were taking narcotics before surgery, your body already has a tolerance to the medications. It is usually going to take a higher dose of narcotic to manage your pain after a surgery.
- Tylenol is usually underrated in terms of managing pain. Research studies have shown that Tylenol can be very useful in managing acute pain (as experienced after surgery). If okay with your surgeon, you can take a recommended dose of Tylenol with your narcotics. Some narcotics contain Tylenol (examples – Norco, Percocet) so be sure to consider this when taking additional Tylenol to stay within the dosing limits.
- Narcotics (Oxycodone, Percocet, Norco, Hydrocodone, Tramadol) will be prescribed by your surgeon if appropriate. With the opioid epidemic in the United States, there are strict guidelines for prescriptions. If needed, you will use narcotics under the guidance of your surgeon to manage your pain after surgery for a limited amount of time.
- Sometimes anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen, Advil, Motrin, or Aleve (also called NSAIDs) can be used in addition to Tylenol and narcotics. Check with your doctor before using. People with cardiac conditions, high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, and kidney disease are advised to avoid NSAIDs. If you’ve had any type of bone fusion (ie- back surgery), your surgeon may not want you to take NSAIDs.
- Ice can be effective for pain control with certain types of surgeries (back surgery, knee or hip replacement). Ice should always be wrapped in a thin towel before placing it on your skin. It’s best to put the ice to the side of your incision and not directly on it. Ice should be applied for 15-20 minutes every hour while you are awake, allowing the remainder of the hour for your skin to have a break. Your surgeon will advise if you should use ice. Heat is often avoided right after surgery because it can cause some swelling in the surgical area.
The pain you’re experiencing right after surgery will ease with time. One day you’ll wake up and realize how much better you feel. Work through your pain experience using all the tools you have. You will be successful!
***Always follow your surgeon’s recommendations first and foremost.