No two people are exactly alike when it comes to pain. Some are very sensitive, even to mild discomfort, while others can withstand much more. Now that your operation is over, you will experience some pain, but there are several ways this can be controlled.
IMPORTANT. It isn't a good idea to "tough it out" after surgery and refuse treatments to ease your pain. Research shows that patients who ask for and receive pain medication actually do better during their rehabilitation. That's because if you are in pain, it may be harder for your therapist to help you get moving. Pain can also make you feel anxious or upset and make you afraid to do your post-operative exercises. If you are in pain while in the hospital, or if you notice your pain is getting worse at any time, tell someone on Your Care Team.
Your surgeon will decide which pain relief method is right for you, based on your medical history and other factors. Here are some possible options, which may or may not be available at your hospital:
Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA)
It’s stressful to be in pain and have to wait for someone else to bring your next dose of medication. Such stress can actually make pain seem worse. Patient-Controlled Analgesia gives you a feeling of control which may relieve anxiety and actually help reduce pain, along with medication.
You will be connected to a special device called a PCA machine. Whenever you press a button, a pump delivers a small, pre-measured amount of pain-relieving medicine through an intravenous (IV) line in your wrist or arm. You will feel relief within a few minutes. When you start feeling uncomfortable again, you can push the button to receive more medication.
Don’t worry about overdosing – timers on the PCA pump will prevent you from getting too much medication in too short a time span, and your nurse will closely monitor you and the PCA system.
It’s important that you don’t wait until your pain is severe before pressing the button for another dose. You may wish to press it before starting activities that cause you discomfort such as turning, coughing, breathing deeply, and exercising your legs.
If you are still in pain even though you’ve pushed the button several times, tell someone on your Care Team. You may need an extra “booster” dose of pain medication.
The feeling of pain in your knee or hip actually begins when pain signals move along nerves in the spine to your brain. One way to block these signals is to deliver drugs into the spinal area. An epidural catheter is a thin plastic tube which the doctor inserts into your back. Pain medication is delivered through this tube, bringing relief from pain in just a few minutes.
You may be given a dose of pain-relieving medication by needle (injection) which goes directly into the muscle of your arm, leg or buttock. It could take as long as an hour before you feel the pain-relieving effect.
If your pain isn’t too severe, oral medication (pills) taken every few hours, may be enough to control your pain. Your doctor will prescribe a drug and a dose based on your overall health and level of discomfort.
After surgery many patients develop symptoms of constipation which can make them feel quite uncomfortable. One reason for this is that many drugs used to control pain cause constipation as a side effect. Being inactive can also lead to constipation. If you have trouble moving your bowels after surgery, tell someone on your Care Team. They can help you.