Pain After Surgery

Pain After Surgery

Few people are completely fearless when undergoing surgery, even if some gladly anticipate the relief from a currently painful or disrupting condition in their lives. Still, most surgeries include post-surgical pain that could last for hours, days, weeks or months depending on the surgery.


Anticipating post-operative pain allows doctors and patients the chance to discuss before the operation what pain management strategies they will use while healing from the surgery.  One option that is not recommended is enduring the pain. For some, this sounds stoic, brave, less complicated or more natural than using medication to alleviate pain. It might be. But it is often counter-productive. Healing often requires some movement to promote healthy circulation and prevent muscles from atrophy. Pain medication can help you recover faster and with less distress. It can also ensure that you clean wound sites thorough if need be. You wouldn’t want to do a poor job at sterilizing a wound just because it hurt too much.

 The negatives of opioid use are mostly linked to opioid addiction, which can be devastating and even lethal

Discuss with your doctor


Prior to surgery, discuss with your doctor the options available to you. Discuss how much pain you can expect and the possible medications you can use. Be honest with your doctor about your drug and alcohol use, so the plan can include considerations for any addiction-issues that can cause long-term health problems. Discuss all the medications you take. Talk about side effects of the medication and what kind of wound care will help you to heal while minimizing the chances of infection.


Here are some basic options for post-surgical pain management. Included are some pros and cons to consider.


  • Opioids


Opioids include drugs like oxycodone, oxymorphone, and tramadol. Hydromorphone and morphine are also opioid-based. The pros include long-lasting relief from intense pain in pill form. The effective range of opioid medication can be two to six or eight hours. These are very useful when anticipating post-surgery pain.


The negatives of opioid use are mostly linked to opioid addiction, which can be devastating and even lethal. Overdosing has risen dramatically in recent years, as have fatality rates due to new, highly powerful synthetic opioids on the market.


Local anesthetics


Local anesthetics include drugs such as lidocaine and bupivacaine. These are applied directly to the wound site, sometimes as an injected formula. They provide very quick, effective relief from pain. Both of them work by slowing or stopping sodium uptake at nerve endings, which diminishes electrical signals that communicate pain to the brain.


Bupivacaine is often used in epidural treatments and by dentists to numb patients before oral surgery. Both of these drugs are classed medications that block pain.

While bupivacaine is used in surgical settings, it can cause troublesome side effects, such as racing or slowing your heart rate. Local anesthetics can cause rashes, dizziness, ringing in your ears and seizures. Discuss with your doctor these risks, especially if you’ve ever had an allergic reaction to local anesthetics.


Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)


Drugs in this category include several compounds available without a prescription. These include ibuprofen, sold as Advil and Motrin IB, and naproxen, which are sold as Anaprox and Aleve.


While these drugs are considered low-risk when taken on a temporary basis, there are dangerous side effects that have been related to long-term use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cites the risk of cardiovascular problems (heart attack and stroke), which are elevated with long-term use. Gastrointestinal difficulties could also arise. Side effects also include excessive bleeding, as NSAIDs function as blood thinners, as well.


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