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Today, pain after surgery is usually managed extremely well in the hospital, and many people find the post-operative period a lot less traumatic than they expected. As well as keeping you comfortable, pain control can help you recover faster and may reduce your risk of developing complications such as pneumonia and blood clots after surgery.

By the time you go home you should be able to keep the pain under control with regular use of oral pain relievers, tapering off as the incision heals and you start to feel better.


What is the treatment?

Immediately after the operation
Sometimes even before the general anaesthetic has worn off, the surgical team may give you a local anaesthetic around the area of the incision, or an epidural (into the back) or intravenous injection of an opioid (narcotic) pain reliever such as morphine, which will last for several hours.

Thereafter, the doctors and nurses may ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with ‘0’ being ‘no pain’ and ‘10’ being ‘the worst pain you can imagine.’ Rating your pain like this helps them to decide if and when you need more, less, or different types of pain medication.

You may be given patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), a computerised pump that allows you to press a button and deliver exactly the right amount of pain medication into your intravenous (IV) line, usually in your arm. Or you may be given oral opioids such as tramadol.

Opioids can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, itching, drowsiness and constipation – be sure to tell the doctor or nurse if you experience any of these effects.


When you go home
Depending on the nature of your operation, the hospital team may send you home with a prescription for a strong pain-reliever such as tramadol, or perhaps a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen, diclofenac or naproxen.

But often, you will be able to manage your pain during the recovery period with over-the-counter pain-relievers such as paracetamol, low dose ibuprofen, or a combination of Paracetamol 500mg + Ibuprofen 150mg.

Many people worry about becoming ‘hooked’ on pain-relievers after surgery, but this relates to opioids such as codeine which should not be required after your initial recovery period.  If you are concerned about addiction, or have a history of alcohol or substance abuse, talk with your doctors.




More information


EMedicine Health – Pain after surgery



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