Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
Pain Control After
Surgery: Know Your Options
What is pain?
Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you
something may be wrong in your body. Sometimes pain is just a nuisance, like a
mild headache. At other times, pain can be more serious. For example, after an
operation, if your pain doesn't go away even after you take pain medicine, your
body may be telling you that something is wrong. After you have surgery, your
nurses and doctors will ask about your pain because they want you to be
comfortable. They also ask about your pain because they want to know if
something is wrong. Be sure to tell your doctors and nurses if you have pain
after your surgery.
What are the benefits of pain
control after surgery?
People used to think severe pain after surgery
was something they just had to put up with. This is no longer true. Today, your
nurses and doctors can do many things before and after surgery to prevent or
help your pain. Treating your pain can help you in the following ways:
- You can feel more comfortable, which will help
your body heal.
- You can get well faster. If you feel less pain,
you can start walking and get your strength back more quickly. You may even
leave the hospital sooner.
- You may have fewer complications after surgery.
People whose pain is well-controlled seem to do better after surgery. For
example, they don't have as many problems such as pneumonia and blood clots.
Who decides about
You and your doctors and nurses can decide which
methods of pain control are right for you. Sometimes, a couple of methods are
combined to get even better pain relief. Don't worry about getting "hooked" on
pain medicines during the time you're recovering from surgery. This doesn't
happen very often. Your nurses and doctors want to make your surgery as
pain-free as they can. The amount or type of pain you feel may not be the same
as the pain other people feel, even people who have the same operation.
What should I ask my doctor about
Before your surgery, discuss the pain control
options with your doctors and nurses. Be sure to talk about the following
- Pain control methods that have worked well (or
not so well) for you before.
- Concerns you have about pain medicines.
- Any allergies you might have to medicines.
- Side effects of the pain medicines.
- Medicines you take for other health
problems--your doctors and nurses need to know all the medicines you usually
take. Sometimes mixing other medicines with pain medicines can cause problems.
- The ways pain medicines are given to people in
are pain medicines given?
Sometimes people are given pain medicines only
when they ask a nurse for them. This may not be the best way to control your
pain. The following are different ways you can get pain medicine:
- You might be given pain pills or get pain
medicine in shots at certain times. Rather than wait until your pain is really
strong, you would get pain medicine at regular times during the day to keep your
pain under control.
- You might use patient-controlled analgesia
(called PCA) if your hospital has it. With PCA, you control when you get pain
medicine. When you begin to feel pain, you just press a button to get the
medicine through a tube in your vein.
- You might get pain medicine through a tube
inserted in your spine. This gives you continuous pain relief. Or you might have
patient- controlled epidural analgesia (called PCEA). This method allows you to
press a button when you feel pain. When you press the button, the pain medicine
goes into a tube inserted in your back.
What should I do if
I'm still having pain?
Your nurses and doctors will ask you how your
pain medicine is working. If you are still having pain, your doctor can change
the medicine, its dose or its timing. Take (or ask for) pain-relief drugs as
soon as your pain starts. If you know that your pain is going to get worse when
you start doing activities, you can take some pain medicine first. It's easier
to control pain before it really gets started. It's harder to ease pain once it
has taken hold.