Setting Pain Goals after Orthopedic Spine Surgery
Pain control is a key part of your care after surgery that can help speed recovery and improve the results of your surgery. This handout was written to help you understand how pain is managed after surgery. It describes:
- Setting realistic goals for pain control.
- How pain is managed.
Realistic Goals for Pain Control
It is very hard to safely do away with all of your pain. We want to keep you safe and make you as comfortable as we can. To help make this happen, we want to teach you about what to expect and how to set realistic goals for pain control. You are a vital part of your pain management plan.
People feel pain in many ways. Although it varies with each person, you should expect to have some degree of pain after surgery. It is not realistic to expect to have no pain. We will ask you to tell us about your pain using a scale of 0 to 10 where 0=no pain and 10=the worst pain you can imagine. These pain rating numbers are used along with other measures that include how well you can move, eat, and sleep.
0-10 Number Pain Scale
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10No Mild Moderate Severe Worst Pain Pain
Most patients can manage with a pain level in the mild (1-4) to moderate
(5-7) range. If you have severe pain (8-10), we want to reduce it enough so you can walk, rest, and do any required activities. Good pain control should also allow you to get some rest without getting too sleepy.
Setting realistic pain goals after surgery may help you measure your progress as you get better. The nursing staff will help you to set a realistic pain goal and match it with your activity goals. For instance, your pain goal for the day may be 6/10, and your activity goal may be to sit up in the chair for all meals. At the end of the day, you should reflect on your progress and decide if your pain goal was realistic and whether or not you need to change your pain goal.
How Pain is Managed after Orthopedic Spine Surgery
There are a number of options your doctor may choose from to manage your pain. Your doctor may discuss these options with you before surgery. Our goal is to manage and reduce your pain to a reasonable level and control any unpleasant side effects from the pain medicines.
Pain medicine may be given through your IV during your operation and in the recovery room. Once you arrive on the inpatient unit, you may continue to receive IV pain medicine or pain pills. IV pain medicine can be given by your nurse or by a Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA) pump. The PCA pump lets the patient get a set amount of IV pain medicine at preset time intervals.
Our goal is to have you take pain pills as soon as you can because pills provide longer lasting pain control. Pain pills start to work within an hour and give you better pain management than IV pain medicine. Some people may receive two types of pain pills. One is a long-acting pill that is often scheduled two times a day and lasts about 12 hours. The second is a short-acting pill that lasts 3 to 4 hours and is something you ask your nurse for when you need it. You should let your nurse know about your pain before it becomes severe.
There are other pain control options that can be used along with your pain medicine to help control your pain. These include:
- Cold or warm packs.
- Deep breathing exercises.
- Imagery, which is using your imagination to create mental pictures or situations to help reduce your pain.
- Distraction such as watching TV or reading a book.
To help you, we offer 3 special TV channels:
1. The C.A.R.E. channel (number 10 on your TV), which provides a continuous relaxation environment.
2. The Healing Images channel (number 15 on your TV), which includes breathing, meditation, and imagery exercises.
3. The Chuckle Channel (number 11 on your TV), which offers light-hearted distraction with comedy.
You may want to combine some of these methods to see what works best for you.
Please let us know if there are pain treatments that have been helpful to you in the past. There is no one best plan that works and it often takes a while to find what works best for you.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 05/06/2010
Copyright © 05/06/2010 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7024
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