Managing Surgical Pain
Pain management after surgery can help you:
- Experience greater comfort while you heal.
- Get out of bed sooner, start walking, and perform breathing exercises more effectively.
- Avoid complications such as pneumonia and blood clots.
As a patient, you should expect:
- Your reports of pain to be believed.
- Information about pain and pain relief measures.
- Health professionals who will respond quickly to your reports of pain.
- To participate in decisions regarding pain control and options.
- Effective management of your pain.
The Pain Scale
To describe any pain you may be experiencing, your nurse will ask you to refer to the pain scale to determine your level of discomfort. Reporting your pain in this way helps the medical staff know how well your treatment is working and whether to make any changes.
- Analgesics such as NSAIDS and narcotics can be used alone or combined with other drugs for improved pain control.
- NSAIDS are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that can relieve mild-to-moderate pain and reduce swelling at the surgical site. These drugs, such as Toradol, Ibuprofen, and aspirin can be used alone or with narcotics.
- Narcotics are the most common medications used to relieve post-operative pain. Narcotics affect pain centers in the spinal cord and in the brain. They can control severe pain. With short-term use, they are not addictive. Narcotics can be given by tablet, liquid, injection into the skin, or injection into an intravenous catheter. Medication given by IV will act more quickly. Patient Controlled Anesthesia (PCA) may be used. PCA allows you to control your own IV pain medicine by the push of a button within pre-set limits that have been established by your doctor.
- Local Anesthetics are medications similar to Novocain that block the nerves that transmit pain signals. They may be injected into the incision in the operating room.
- Spinal Anesthesia is commonly used for surgical procedures involving the lower half of the body. Your anesthesiologist will position you in the operating room and inject a medication into a part of your spinal canal. When you arrive in the Post-Anesthesia Care (PACU), your nurse will assess if you have feeling or movement in your legs. You will remain in the PACU until sensation and movement have returned.
- Nerve Block (Epidural Analgesia) is a process where medicine such as morphine is injected into your back through a small tube called an epidural catheter. This may be used in certain types of surgery on the lower part of your body. Some people will be pain free for several hours. You can expect to remain in the PACU for at least two hours after surgery to be closely monitored.
Ways to Control Pain Without Medication
These alternatives for mild to moderate pain can help boost the effectiveness of pain medications:
- Patient Education and knowing what to expect about your surgery helps reduce anxiety.
- Relaxation exercises suggested by your caregiver can increase comfort.
- Music provides relaxation and distraction.
- Physical Agents such as heat and cold therapy, massage, healing touch, rest, and good body alignment can lessen pain.