Pain Medication after Surgery

August 10, 2014

No matter what surgical procedure you undergo, once the general anesthesia wears off, you will have some pain. Depending on your tolerance for pain as well as the surgery being performed, the discomfort may be mild or significant. The nursing staff at the hospital or the ambulatory surgery center are dedicated to helping you through your recovery and minimize pain associated with the procedure or incisions.

To that end, there are several medications that may be administered, each of which have their benefits and considerations:

  • NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) Naproxen (Aleve). These medications are often well tolerated and will be prescribed at a higher dose, e.g. 800mg per pill, larger than the standard 200mg pills that are available over the counter. Once home, you can reduce your consumption of these medications commensurate to your pain levels and according to post-op instructions. Those with a history of intestinal bleeding should be very cautious with NSAIDs as they can create or worsen gastric ulcers and other GI issues. Please let us know if you have had any sensitivity to NSAIDs in the past.
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not considered an NSAID since it does not have anti-inflammatory properties. However it is an effective pain killer. When used as directed, it has very few side-effects. Patients should be aware of recent FDA guidelines reducing the recommended maximum daily intake of acetaminophen.
  • Opioid medications are very strong analgesics that can be prescribed for severe pain after surgery. These medications include Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin. While they are very effective at reducing pain, there is serious concern regarding the potential for addiction. Please let us know about any previous alcohol or drug use before your procedure.
  • If you have concerns or requests regarding pain management, we encourage you to discuss this with your surgeon before the procedure. You’ll get a better idea of side effects and considerations as they relate to your particular circumstance. You may want to write your ideal pain management plan before your surgical procedure and reference it during your recovery. Be honest with your nursing staff and do let them know the severity and frequency of your pain so that they can keep you comfortable during your recovery.

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