How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?
How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

After surgery, there are many different reasons why you might experience discomfort. Not least the frustration of having to rest and not being able to do very much.

You might be forced to keep your leg straight without bending or not be able to sleep on your side. The list is extensive, but the pain is the leading cause of discomfort after surgical operations.

But the good news is that there are many things we can do to reduce your pain. 

At Intecore Physical Therapy, we work in consultation with you and your surgeon (if possible) to draw up a tailor-made post-surgery pain relief plan. 

Post-Surgery Pain Management 

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

There is always the likelihood of a certain amount of pain after a surgical operation. But right from the outset, your medical team works hard to minimize the pain and keep you comfortable before, during, and after the surgery.

But what about managing the pain once you’re discharged from the hospital?

Apart from reducing physical discomfort and allowing you to rest.

Pain management also plays a vital role in the recovery process. While also reducing the risk of post-surgical complaints, such as blood clots and infections.

In addition, if your pain levels are manageable, it helps to speed up your recovery process. It enables you to do physical therapy exercises and stay active and mobile. 

What Type Of Post-Surgery Pain Do You Have?

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

Contrary to what we think, discomfort and pain after surgery may not only be felt in the operated area. You could also feel it elsewhere in your body.  

Here are some of the most common types of post-surgical pain:

  • Neuropathic (nerve pain): As the name suggests, nerve pain is caused by damage to nerve cells. This type of pain tends to be pretty intense. Patients describe it as a sharp stabbing or unrelenting burning sensation. 
  • Visceral: We use the term visceral pain to describe the sensation of deep, internal pain or pressure that comes from your organs. It is usually felt as pain across a wide area and is hard to pinpoint.  
  • Referred: Again, as the name suggests, referred pain describes pain that is “referred” or felt in a different part of the body than where the actual pain is coming from. 
  • Deep Somatic: This type of pain is the pain you feel when tissues – like ligaments, tendons, muscle, or bones – inside the body are damaged and cause deep, aching pain.
  • Nociceptive Pain: The most common type of pain, nociceptive pain, occurs when bodily tissues suffer damage – like when you twist your ankle, burn your skin, or visit the dentist. 

How To Manage Pain After Surgery

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

Firstly, if you experience pain and discomfort right after your surgery, you should always let your doctor or healthcare team know – to check that it is normal and not a sign of post-surgical complications. 

Your healthcare team will monitor your pain using threshold limits when you’re in the hospital.

Generally, during the recovery process, your doctor or other medical professionals will ask you to describe the pain on a rating chart of 01-10. 0 signifies no discomfort, and 10 is intolerable pain.

Using these thresholds and your answers, they gauge the efficacy of your post-surgery pain management medications and decide whether they need to make changes. 

Post-Operative Pain Management Options

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

There are multiple ways of controlling pain directly after surgery. Your medical history and condition determine the best one for you after the operation.

While they’re all deemed safe, some do carry inherent risks. But life-threatening contraindications are rare.

Generally, the most common side effects include drowsiness, nausea, itchiness, and vomiting. 

1. PCA (patient-controlled analgesia): This is a medication delivered intravenously at the touch of a button, as and when pain strikes.

This small pump-like device allows you to self-administer medicine levels through an IV line directly into your body.

PCA is very effective in relieving pain in most patients. It gives you self-control over your pain. The pump is programmed to deliver a specific quantity of medication when a button is clicked.

It only permits a predetermined amount of drugs irrespective of the number of times the button clicks, so you can’t overdose. Only you can press the button and nobody else.

You are the best judge to decide when you need more medication because you’re the one feeling the pain. However, you must be alert enough to know when to self-administer the medication to use PCA. That is the only caveat. 

2. Patient-controlled epidural analgesia: If you’re a woman who has given birth. You might already know about epidural analgesia because it is often used for pain relief during labor. 

Patient-controlled epidural analgesia also uses a PCA pump (as above) to deliver medicine via a catheter in your back. It is like getting an IV in terms of discomfort in inserting the epidural catheter.

First, they give you sedatives to help you fully relax. Next, they sterilize the area of the skin on your back where it is to go, and a local anesthetic is given to numb the area. Then a fine needle is injected within the epidural space, which will help guide the thin catheter into the area.

This method helps tremendously in pain management once you are alert enough to manage it. Finally, if you feel like you need medication, just press the button.  

This form of pain control has proved to be more successful in pain relief than IV medication.

However, while it is generally safe, it is not entirely risk-free. On occasions, it may not help alleviate pain sufficiently, for which we might use another pain management option.

The most common side effects are drowsiness, vomiting, itching, and nausea.

Sometimes there may also be a tingling sensation or numbness in the legs that goes away on reducing the dose or discontinuing the medication. However, more severe complications are extremely unlikely. 

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

3. Nerve blocks: Another post-operative pain control option is the use of nerve blocks.

The difference between a nerve block and an epidural is that the former helps manage pain in a limited body area, e.g., leg or arm. The main advantage of using a nerve block is that it reduces the quantity of pain medication.

Consequently, this will minimize side effects to a great extent. Therefore, it may be considered the best option for surgery.

The final decision on which one is right for you is made in consultation with your doctor and the anesthesiologist.

4. Oral pain medication: There are various pain medications that you can take orally.

These include medications for mild pain and inflammation and stronger ones to be taken in case of extreme discomfort (SOS). Oral medications are mostly safe to take in doses after 4-8 hours.     

The Ongoing Pain Management Process 

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

After your hospital discharge, you can decide with your doctor the mode of pain management that best suits your needs.

For example, if your pain is severe, your doctor might choose to involve a pain management specialist to help. 

They evaluate your condition, medical history, surgery, and lab tests. Once they have studied all the information, they recommend the most suitable pain control option for you.

Your doctor and pain management specialists are highly trained professionals well-versed in various pain control techniques.

But ultimately, you decide which option suits you best.

Once your recovery period begins, you will probably be assessed periodically by your doctor to determine your comfort levels. They will tweak your pain management routine for greater effectiveness and less discomfort if necessary. 

How Physical Therapy Reduces Discomfort After Surgery

How Can I Reduce Discomfort After An Operation?

Obviously, you need pain medication directly after an operation.

Still, after the immediate pain subsides and your incision site and surgical wounds have healed, you should be looking to transition off your pain medication.

All pain medication comes with adverse long-term side effects, so it’s best to avoid them whenever possible for optimal health. 

But what can you do if you’re still in pain?

Physical therapy is one of the most effective ways to reduce discomfort and pain before and after surgery. It keeps your muscles and joints active and moving using specific stretching and strengthening exercises.  

After any major surgery, your body is understandably weak – especially if you’ve been immobilized.

Physical therapy helps restore and strengthen so you can resume your daily routine – without pain. In some instances, Physical Therapy may leave you feeling even stronger than before.

Physical therapy helps alleviate the stress and pressure on your joints and muscles to help them become more flexible and gain strength. Both of these things are essential for restoring your pre-surgery range of motion. 

After a major operation, the area operated on can become tight and rigid. The tendons, connective tissues, and muscles also tighten up, which increases pain.

Physical therapy helps to loosen these tight spots and increases your flexibility while also helping to reduce post-surgical inflammation.

As we mentioned, physical therapy is also an excellent option – in the recovery phase to reduce your pain levels and minimize your dependency on harmful pain medications like opioids. 

Book your free consultation with one of our Pain Specialists now. 

Andrew Vertson
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