There is no need for you to suffer after having surgery. How much pain you have after your surgery will depend on what type of surgery you have. Your doctor will use powerful medications to ensure you do not have pain.
Intravenous IV Pain Medication
Usually before your surgery, a catheter is inserted in your vein in your arm or hand. This is used to give you fluids, antibiotics, sedatives, anesthetic and pain medication after your surgery.
Pain medications in the opioid family are generally injected into the IV catheter on a regular schedule. You might also be given a patient controlled analgesia system (PCA system) where you are able to give yourself a small dose of the medication by pushing the button when you feel pain. This system has a built in safeguard to ensure you do not overdose on the pain medication.
With an epidural analgesia, the pain medication is injected through a catheter that is placed in the epidural space in the spinal canal. This type of pain medication is often used during labor and it can also be used after major surgery. The epidural can remain in place for a number of days for post operative pain.
Spinal anesthesia pain relief involves injecting pain medications directly into spinal fluid. This method is faster and easier than an epidural; however, it does not last as long. In addition to the spinal medication, a long acting opioid can be added that can last up to 24 hours.
Nerve block offers targeted pain relief to a specific body area like your leg or arm. It stops pain messages from travelling up the nerves to your brain. This type of pain relief works well if you only require pain relief for several hours. It can be administered by a single injection of local anesthetic or for longer relief a catheter can be placed in the area for a continuous pain medication drip. Nerve blocks can be administered for outpatient as well.
Combination pain medications or multimodal Pain Relief is often used and entails a combination of an opioid with one other drug such as celecoxib, gabapentin, ketamine or acetaminophen. The combination is known to improve pain relief after surgery.
Your Role in Pain Relief
After your surgery you will need to let your doctors and nurses know how you are doing and how much pain you are in. Pain control is very important. Be honest about your pain, where it hurts, what makes it worse (or better) and how much it hurts. You should never ignore any side effects you are experiencing. Tell your doctor. If one medication is not working, there are others that can be tried.
When your body is not in pain, it can do a better job of focusing on the work of healing. This is not the time to prove you have a high pain tolerance, so do not grin and bear it. Always work with your health care providers to make your recovery go as smoothly and quickly as possible.