Managing Post-op pain

The majority of people who have any type of surgery, especially major surgeries, will experience moderate to severe pain in the postoperative period. It is likely that your surgeon will prescribe opioid analgesics for your acute postoperative pain management. While opioid pain medications have their place in postop pain management, they can also have unwanted and negative side effects such as clouded thinking, nausea, vomiting, itching, constipation, and respiratory depression. 

American Pain Society guidelines recommend a multimodality approach in controlling post surgical pain. Using a variety of pain treatments that work to reduce your pain in different ways can help decrease your opioid consumption and provide better pain relief than just opioid pain medication alone. 

Post-Op Pain Management Guidelines

Follow these multimodal pain interventions for more effective pain management following surgery:

  1. Find out what realistic expectations you should have of pain after your surgery. Ask your doctors and nurses what type of painto expect after surgery and for how long you might experience pain. Even while taking pain medicines, you should expect to experience some level of discomfort. Understanding how much pain and what type of pain to expect before having surgical procedures has been shown to increase patient satisfaction and comfort in the postoperative period. 
  2. Protect and brace your surgical site, especially if you’ve had an abdominal surgery. Hold a pillow against your surgical site when coughing, changing your position, or doing anything that may cause stress to the surgical site. This will reduce pain and help ensure your incision remains intact.
  3. Avoid emotional stress. Not only can stress increase your postsurgical pain, but it can also put you at an increased risk of infection. Reduce your stress by performing deep breathing exercises, avoid people who increase your stress levels, and make post-op plans before having your surgery. Arranging assistance for child and pet care, shopping, transportation, household chores, and meal prep before surgery will help reduce both your postoperative stress and pain. 
  4. If your doctor instructs you to take nonopioid analgesics, such as Tylenol or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, alternate these medications with your opioid prescription. Alternating these medications gives you around-the-clock pain management that works to reduce your pain in a variety of ways. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, such as Ibuprofen, also help reduce inflammation and swelling. 
  5. Heat and ice is a simple, but often overlooked, method to reduce pain. If OK’d by your surgeon, apply heat or ice to the painful area for 15-20 minutes. Set an alarm on your phone so you don’t accidentally fall asleep and cause damage to your skin or surgical site. Icing will help reduce swelling which will also relieve pain.
  6. Move! Laying in one position after surgery can actually increase your pain, so get up and walk around your house every couple of hours. It will get easier each time you do it! Walking also has the added benefit of exercising your lungs, strengthening your muscles, and reducing your chances of getting blood clots.

We hope you find these tips helpful, and remember, you should always follow your surgeon’s post-op instructions and take your medications as directed by them. If you feel like your pain is not adequately controlled, it’s important to communicate this to your care team. According to the American Society of Anesthesiologists, if effective pain management doesn’t take place in the postoperative period, acute pain can become chronic pain. 

Luxe Concierge Post-Op Nursing Care

If you are stressed, anxious, or unsure about management of your postoperative pain, Luxe Concierge Nursing is here to help! We will:

Call us for a free consultation at: 971-330-2451