Navigating Pain Management

Navigating Pain Management

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Navigating Pain Management Post-Op

It is rare to go through surgery and not have pain afterward. Let’s face it, none of us looks forward to surgery and we certainly don’t look forward to the pain that may be a result of surgery. You will need a strong prescription pain medication to ensure you aren’t in pain after a procedure, right?

Well…not always.

With today’s opioid addiction crisis, surgeons are rethinking prescribing opioids or reducing the number of opioid pills prescribed. In fact, opioids were once only used as a last resort for pain management and at “end of life” to keep the patient as comfortable and pain free as possible.

Turns out not only is prescription pain medication not always needed, but often not advisable after surgery. As surgeons rethink the use of pain medications, you should as well.

Address pain management head on

It starts with having more conversations between the surgeon and patient before surgery to come up with treatment plans ahead of time. You should share with your medical team any information that will help them, help you. For example, you may have a low tolerance to pain or a very high tolerance to pain. This is important and helpful in developing a pain management strategy.

If you’re scheduled for a surgical procedure, having a plan to control pain after the surgery may help you avoid unnecessary use of opioids.

4 tips to help manage your pain

  1. Avoid opioids if possible – In many cases, non-opioid pain relievers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, will control post-surgical pain if taken as recommended. A recent study of 163 knee arthroscopy patients who were sent home with non-opioid pain management. Based on the findings of this study, 82% of patients who undergo arthroscopic surgery can achieve satisfactory pain control with non-opioid pain management. (Harvard Women’s Healthy 2/2019)
  2. Limit the use of prescription pain medications – If it is necessary to use an opioid, limit the amount of time you take it. According to Harvard School of Medicine, your plan should be to take it for less than a week — and only when other options won’t work. One way to reduce the amount of opioid medication you are taking is to alternate it with non-opioid treatments, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, (and only if your doctor approves.)
  3. Manage your expectations – Surgeons are also setting expectations for patients preoperatively. When people are having surgery, they should expect to have some pain or discomfort. While no one should have to endure excruciating pain, having some pain is okay. When someone expects to feel some discomfort post-op, if is oftentimes more manageable.
  4. Use alternative pain relieve methods – Your medical team will provide you with post-operative instructions. Usually these post-op care instructions will contain non- medicinal pain management steps along with any prescription pain management. Some of the most common are ice, heat, elevating specific body parts, physical therapy, meditation, and relaxation tips.

Have a pain management plan in place before your procedure

Don’t wait until after surgery to decide what type of pain management you will use. Discuss pain control with your surgeon before your operation, and agree on a course of action ahead of time.

Have ice packs, heating pads, pillows on hand and download meditation or relaxation apps onto your device.

Most importantly, develop a plan with your surgeon that will make you most comfortable and aide in your recovery.

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