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Managing Pain After Surgery

If you experience any pain after surgery, be sure to tell your health care provider right away. Don't wait until the pain becomes severe.

Medications for Pain

There are a variety of pain medications that your health care provider may recommend to ease your discomfort. These medications can range from over-the-counter products, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, etc.), to prescription medications.

How Medications for Pain are Given

Medication for pain can be given orally in a pill form, intravenously through the vein (IV), or by injecting the muscle (IM). Also available is PCA (patient-controlled analgesia), which is a pump that allows you to give yourself controlled doses of pain medication through your IV.

Tips for Taking Pain Medications

  • Tell your health care provider about all prescription and over-the-counter medications that you take, including all vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements. Tell him or her if you have allergies to any food or medications.
  • Tell your health care provider if you drink alcohol. Alcohol can cause dangerous interactions with many medications.
  • Always take your medications as directed. Be sure to take the correct dose at the right times. This can help ward off pain before it starts.
  • Don't stop taking your medication or adjust the dose without first discussing it with your health care provider.
  • Talk with your health care provider about possible side effects and how to manage them.

Other Ways to Manage Pain

  • Distraction - For example, talk with a loved one, read a book, call an old friend or rent a good movie.
  • Relax - Take part in relaxation methods and massage.
  • Change Positions - For example, if you're lying down, sit up.

Describing Your Pain

The questions below may help you learn how to best describe your pain to your health care providers. This can help ensure that you receive the proper treatment for it.

  • When do you feel pain?
    For example, do you have steady pain, or do you feel pain only with certain activities?

  • On a scale of 0-10, what number would you use to describe your pain?
    (0 no pain; 10 very severe pain)

  • What words would you use to describe your pain?
    For example, is it stabbing, burning, heavy or throbbing?
  • What makes your pain better or worse?