Post-Surgery Pain

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

  • It is important to keep your pain level low so that you are comfortable. This will help you to start moving sooner which helps you heal faster.
  • Pain medicine may not get rid of pain completely. But, it should keep it at a level that allows you to move around, eat, and breathe easily.
  • Pain after surgery is caused by injury to your skin, muscles, and nerves during the operation. How much surgery was done may affect how much pain you have afterwards. Tell us about your pain so that they can help you manage it, our goal is to lessen your suffering. The following are some of the other reasons why it is important to control pain after surgery.
    • Pain affects how well you sleep which makes you feel like you do not have any energy. And, if you have too much pain you may not be able to do the things that help you heal faster, like sitting in a chair or walking.
    • Pain can also cause you to breathe too shallow and may keep you from coughing. This can lead to pneumonia.
    • Pain can affect your appetite (desire to eat) and can keep your bowels from working normally. This may make you not eat after surgery. Good nutrition is very important in helping you heal well.
    • Pain can also affect your mood (how you feel about things) and your relationships with others.

Controlling the Pain: We want you to talk about your pain with you, this helps us learn how best to treat it. As caregivers, we will ask many of the following questions before, during, and after pain control treatments to help us learn more about your pain.

  • Where does it hurt? Is the pain just in your incision (cut) or does the pain move from one area to another?
  • How would you rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10? (0 is no pain, and 10 is the worst pain you ever had.)
  • How does the pain feel? Is the pain sharp, cramping, twisting, squeezing, or crushing? Or, is the pain stabbing, burning, dull, numb, or "pins-and-needles" feeling?
  • When did the pain start? Did it begin quickly or slowly? Is the pain steady or does it come and go?
  • Does the pain wake you from sleep?
  • Do certain things or activities cause the pain to start or get worse like coughing or touching the area?
  • Does the pain come before, during, or after meals?
  • Does anything lessen the pain like changing positions, resting, medicines, or changing what you eat?

Medicine:

  • Keep a written list of what medicines you take and when and why you take them. Bring the list of your medications to your appointments. Learn why you take each medication, if you do not know ask for information. Do not take any medications (over the counter and prescribed) without first talking to us.
  • Always take your medicine as directed. Call the office if you think your medicines are not helping or if you feel you are having side effects. Do not quit taking it until you discuss it with the office.
  • If you have anxiety it is important to let us know because lessening your anxiety can help lessen your pain.
  • Anti-nausea medicine: Pain medicine may upset your stomach and make you feel like vomiting. Because of this, pain medicine and anti-nausea medicine are often given at the same time. This medicine may be given to calm your stomach and control vomiting (throwing up).
  • NSAIDs: These medicines, such as ibuprofen lessen inflammation which helps lessen pain. You may be given one of these medicines in addition to other pain medicine to help keep your pain under control.
  • Pain medicine may not get rid of pain completely. But, it should keep it at a level that allows you to move around, eat, and breathe easily. Do not wait until your pain is too bad to ask for medicine. The medicine may not work as well at controlling the pain if you wait too long. Tell caregivers if the pain does not improve.

Pain Control Techniques help you deal with pain instead of taking it away. It is important to practice the technique when you do not have pain if possible. This will help the technique work better during an attack of pain.

Activity: It is important to start moving as soon as possible after surgery. Moving helps your breathing and digestion and helps you heal faster. But, it may hurt to move even though moving and being active actually helps lessen pain over time. At first you may need to rest in bed with your upper body raised on pillows. This helps you breathe easier and may help lessen pain.

Cold and Heat: Both cold and heat can help lessen some types of post-op pain. Some types of pain improve best using cold while other types of pain improve most with heat. Caregivers will tell you if cold and/or hot packs will help your pain.

Pillow: Holding a pillow firmly against your incision can help lessen the pain.

Distraction: teaches you to focus your attention on something other than pain. Playing cards or games, talking and visiting with family may relax you and keep you from thinking about the pain. Watching TV or reading may also be helpful.

Music: It does not matter whether you listen to music, sing, hum or play an instrument. Music increases blood flow to the brain and helps you take in more air. It increases energy and helps change your mood. Music may also cause your brain to make endorphins which further lessens pain.

Relaxation Techniques: Stress and anxiety can make pain worse and may slow healing. Since it is hard to avoid stress, learn to control it. Ask for more information on deep breathing, relaxing muscles, or meditation.

Comfort Measures:

  • Have someone help you get as comfortable as possible in bed, this includes asking for more pillows or blankets if you need them.
  • Make sure the temperature in the room is OK for you.
  • Having your back rubbed may help you relax and lessen your pain.
  • You may feel better by putting a cool cloth on your hands or face.
  • Keep the lights and noise in your room as low as possible.

Other helpful information:

  • Move your legs often while resting in bed to avoid blood clots.
  • How can you take pain medicine safely and make it work the best for you?
    • Some pain medicines can make you breathe less deeply and less often. For these reasons, it is very important to follow our advice on how to take you medicine.
    • Be sure to take your pain medication as directed to stay comfortable and heal more quickly. Do not take more then directed or more often than directed, this can become dangerous and potentially fatal.
    • But, if you are taking medicine that makes you drowsy, do not drive or use heavy equipment.
    • Do not drink alcohol while you are taking narcotic pain medication.
    • Ask your caregiver before taking other medications.
    • Sometimes the pain is worse when you first wake up in the morning. This may happen if you did not have enough pain medicine in your blood stream to last through the night. If this occurs, let us know and we may tell you to take a dose of pain medicine during the night or right before bed.
    • Some foods and other medicines may cause unpleasant side effects when you take pain medicine. Let us know if this is occurring. You may need additional/different medications.
    • If you are experiencing nausea after taking your oral pain medications, try taking them with food, such as a few crackers.
    • Do not stop taking pain medicine suddenly if you have been taking it longer than 2 weeks. Your body may have become used to the medicine. Stopping the medicine all at once may cause unpleasant or dangerous side effects. Ask for help weaning off the medications
    • With time, you may feel that the pain medicine is not working as well as it did before. Call if this happens and together we can discuss new ways to control the pain.
    • Pain medicine can make you constipated (hard BMs). Straining with a BM can make your pain worse. Do not try to push the BM out if it's too hard. Following are some things that you can do to deal with constipation.
      • Avoid hard cheeses and refined grains, such as rice and macaroni. Eat more foods high in fiber (high-fiber foods are raw fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, dried fruits, popcorn, and nuts).
      • Talk to your caregiver about drinking more liquids if you are not on a fluid restriction. Drinking warm or hot liquids can help make your bowels more active. Prune juice may also help make the BM softer.
      • Walking is a very good way to get your bowels moving. You may feel like resting more after surgery. Slowly start to do more each day. Try to get up and around and do as much of your own personal care as possible.
  • Caregivers may suggest you go to a pain clinic if you have chronic (long-term) pain (longer than 3 months).. These specially trained caregivers at the clinic can teach you different ways to control the pain along with medicines. Some of these methods are relaxation therapy, hypnosis, and acupuncture.

CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:

  • You have pain an hour after taking your pain medication (it may not be strong enough).
  • You feel too sleepy or groggy (your pain medication may be too strong).
  • You have problems such as nausea and vomiting (despite taking medications with food), or a rash which may be a side effect of the medicine you are taking.
  • You have a lot of pain or discomfort after normal activities, even after resting and taking oral pain relievers.
  • You have are worried or have questions about your pain.

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