Pain Control after Outpatient Surgery
Facts about Pain
Pain is a normal part of the healing process. Although pain is common after surgery, most patients can feel less pain with simple treatment choices. With less pain, you can shorten healing time, and return to your normal life more quickly. Your role is to ask your doctor where the pain will be, and how much to expect. Learn how to report how much pain you are having using the pain scale below. It is a tool to help you speak clearly with your doctor or nurse. Ask for medicine when the pain first starts. Don’t wait until it is severe. Our goal is to control pain before it becomes severe.
0-10 Number Pain Intensity Scale
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
No Mild Moderate Severe Worst
Discuss pain control choices with your doctor or nurse.
- Have you taken pain medicine before? What works? What doesn’t?
- Are you taking over-the-counter medicine or herbal supplements? Some do not mix well with opioid (narcotic) pain medicine.
- Have you had side effects like nausea/vomiting, constipation, or dizziness? Most side effects lessen over time or can be managed in other ways.
Both drug and non-drug treatments can be helpful to control pain after surgery. Many people use two or more methods to get greater relief. Each person is unique and will have a special plan for pain control that meets their needs.
Introduction to pain medicine dosing schedules
- With some outpatient procedures, patients may need to take their medicine on a schedule (every 3-6 hours “around the clock” for the first 24-48 hours.
- People respond differently to the same dose of medicine. Taking medicine “around the clock” may not be safe in patients who are very sleepy, dizzy, unsteady, or have slurred speech.
If you have uncontrolled pain or have severe or strange side effects, call your doctor.
- Most patients only need opioid pain medicine for a few days before changing to non-opioid pain relievers.
- It is very rare to become addicted to opioid medicine used for this reason. “Addiction” is often confused with “physical dependence” or “tolerance”. Physical dependency may occur in patients who take opioid pain medicine for more than two weeks. This can result in withdrawal symptoms if the opioid is stopped suddenly. Tolerance may also occur when taking opioid pain medicine for longer periods of time. Larger or more frequent doses of medicine may be needed to achieve good pain control. Your doctor will help you safely increase the amount of pain medicine if needed.
- Take pain medicine with food. Doing this may help prevent nausea and vomiting.
- Increase the fiber in your diet and drink more fluids. Doing this may help prevent constipation.
- If you feel dizzy, think about safety. Avoid changing positions quickly (lying down to standing). Don’t drive, or drink alcohol. Have a family member or friend help you as needed.
Your doctor may suggest that you use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medicine. Advil® (ibuprofen) and Aleve® (Naprosyn) are some of these types of medicines. You can use these along with your opioid pain medicine when your pain is mild to moderate. Because some of these medicines should not be taken after certain surgeries, be sure to discuss which drugs are safe for you before using one.
Do not take Tylenol® (acetaminophen) if you are taking medicines that already contain Tylenol® because you may be taking an unsafe amount.
Tylenol® combination medicines include
- Tylenol #3®
- Anything with “APAP” or “Acetaminophen” on the label
There are other methods to reduce pain that really work!
- relaxed breathing
- imagery (imagine a peaceful place)
- movies and TV
- talking with others
- elevation to reduce swelling
- heat or cold (ask your nurse which is right for you)
Discharge medicines ______________________________________________
Last dose taken in Outpatient Surgery ________________;
Next dose (if needed) ____________
Over-the-Counter medicine recommendations ___________________________
Additional instructions _______________________________________________
For more information about pain management, you may want to read these Health Facts for You
HFFY #4659 – Opioid Analgesics
HFFY #4653 - Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Analgesics
HFFY #4448 – How to Relieve Pain without Medicine
HFFY #2012 – Pain Control after Surgery
HFFY #4922 – Pain Management, What Everyone Should Know
HFFY #5298 – Coping with your Chronic Pain
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: 07/07/2011
Copyright © 07/07/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5910
Print Health Fact For You