Post-surgical pain: Management and recovery

by Ahsan Sohail
Post-surgical pain: Management and recovery

Hearing from your doctor that you need an operation or surgery is terrifying. All of a sudden, a pool of questions starts rising in your mind regarding your condition. You start thinking, is your condition very critical that your doctor is suggesting you get surgery. You wonder about the seriousness of your health. What procedure will be followed to provide you relief? Would it be excruciating? What will be the aftereffects? How will you recover from them? And how long will it take to recover completely? The main thing that worries you is how painful the whole procedure will be.

We cannot ignore the pain as it is a robust surgical companion. Wounds and stitches come with the surgeries, and they cause pain. It takes much time to recover from post-surgical pain completely. Many remarkably effective medicines are available for post-surgical pain. These medicines help to keep the post-surgical pain in control. Moreover, doctors say that well-controlled pain aids in fast recovery and helps in getting rid of enduring health problems.

Before surgery:

To ensure that you are having the best treatment for your post-surgical pain, you must start discussing it and being open about it with your doctor starting before your surgery. Discuss with your doctor/surgeon that how they will manage your post-surgical pain. It is crucial to discuss it before surgery during pre-testing and not after the operation. It will help you keep an estimate of how much pain you will experience and how your doctors will help you overcome it. Everyone has a different capacity to handle pain, and all kinds of surgeries involve some levels and types of pain. One must also tell the doctor about the medication that he/she is consuming for whatever purposes. It will help the surgeon to be aware of hazardous drug interactions. 

What is chronic post-surgical pain?

Pain that patients experience right after the surgery is known as acute postoperative pain. This kind of pain lasts for a few days or weeks, and it is normal. The surgical area can be swelled and tender. Still, again this is entirely normal and is vital for the healing process. 

On the other hand, pain that keeps coming back from time to time for three months or more than that, then the pain is said to be chronic post-surgical pain. In this situation, the wounds do not heal during the expected recovery time. Sometimes it is tough to tell that the pain has become chronic after the operation because people get surgery to get rid of a painful condition. It is difficult to say that either the pain is because of the same old problem or it is because of something new? And if it is because pf something else, then does it have something to do with the surgery?

What are the most painful surgeries one can experience?

All surgeries are painful. Some are less painful, and some are more. Remember, everyone has different experiences regarding surgical pain. Some operations are more uncomfortable and painful right after the surgery. While on the other hand, some are painful for a longer time. The following are the surgeries that are the most painful so far.

  • Gall bladder removal: Surgery performed for the removal of the gall bladder is quite painful immediately after the surgery and during the recovery period as well. The other reason for pain is because it’s harder for the digestive system to digest fats in the same amount as before the surgery.  
  • Hip replacement: The pain varies from person to person. People say that recovering from hip replacement surgery involves an enormous amount of pain. It takes 6 to 12 months to recover completely.
  • Lumbar puncture: Lumbar puncture is the procedure in which the cerebrospinal fluid is withdrawn from the spinal column with the help of a needle. It causes severe headaches for about 24 to 48 hours after the surgery. If the headache continues, consult your doctor immediately. Especially if it worsens withstanding.
  • Open abdominal hysterectomy: We use our abdominal muscles in various kinds of movements. Such as standing, lying, and rolling on the bed. Abdominal hysterectomy is the removal of the uterus in women. It causes in normal daily activities. The person cannot stand, sit, or lay appropriately for a long time after the surgery.
  • Dental implants: It takes a very long time to recover from dental implant surgery. Though it causes a minimal amount of pain during operation followed by anesthesia. But after the surgery, the recovery period is extremely painful. You will always feel pain whenever you eat something, and you have to chew your food.
  • Liposuction: This procedure involves the removal of fats from the body through surgery. It causes severe bruising and pain. Often surprises people with intense and chronic pain who have this surgical procedure for the first time.

What kind of pains can occur after surgery?

The area where you can feel pain is not only confined to the surgical part. There are several parts other than the surgical ones, where a person may or may not feel pain. These are the surprises that a patient gets after the surgical procedure. But remember, everyone feels pain differently, and the pain varies from person to person as well.

  1. Muscular pain:

Your body might hurt after lying for a more extended period on the operating table. You may feel pain in your head, shoulder, chest, back, or in any other part of your body. It is due to the inappropriate body posture during the surgery. 

  • Painful throat:

You may feel soreness in your throat, or your throat seems scratchy while talking. It is mainly because of the anesthesia given to you for the operation. It can take a day or two to recover from this fully. 

  • Pain while moving:

Lying down, getting up, walking, eating, sneezing, and coughing; are normal daily routine activities that a person performs in his everyday life. But after the surgery, it can be challenging to get up, lie down, or eat on your own. As it can cause intense pain on the incision site. 

How can you handle the post-surgical numbness?

Surgeries are often carried out after a dose of anesthesia, which can cause numbness after the procedure. Numbness, in part of the body, can cause discomfort and problem in doing normal activities. Being on a surgical period for a long time can also be another reason for numbness. A nerve cut can also cause this problem in the area where the nerve works. A nerve can occur due to an injury or might be possible to happen while performing a surgery. 

Types of numbness:

  • Anesthetic numbness: The primary purpose of anesthesia before surgery is to make your brain not feel any kind of surgical pain. It can cause temporary numbness after surgery. 
  • Slit numbness: The incision area remains numb after the surgery and stays the same for a long time. It is because of the nerve damage around the incision area and can take several months to recover.

How can numbness improve?

With the anesthesia wearing off, numbness can start improving as well. Some patients start recovering from anesthesia in a day or two and some little earlier. Nerve damage can take longer to recover. It can take about six months to a year to completely get rid of numbness because of nerve damage. But again, numbness as well varies from person to person. 

Why is pain control so important? 

Pain control can make you feel comfortable and can likewise speed up your recovery process. Moreover, it helps you in reducing the risk of post-surgical complications, such as blood clots or pneumonia. If your pain is in control, you will feel better and will be able to perform daily tasks and exercises comfortably. 

How can you get your pain under control?

If your pain is out of control, you must immediately inform your doctor or nurses. That is how they can help control your pain. Your doctors and nurses will ask you about your pain regularly. They will ask you to measure your pain and tell the intensity. Your doctor will check your medical and surgical history, review your lab tests and physical exams. After that, he will decide what kind of pain management option will work best for you. Your doctor will make necessary adjustments as per your pain management requirements.

What kind of pain-reducing medications can one use?

The kind of medications and their doses depends upon the type of surgery you had. And how much time will it take to recover? Opioids are potent medicines that help diminish pain. Local anesthetics numb the particular part of the body temporarily. NSAIDs minimize the inflammatory activities that promote pain. Your doctor might suggest some psychoactive drugs, including anti-anxiety medications.

Home recovery:

Before leaving the hospital, your doctor will give you some specific instructions on post-surgical care. He took as much rest as possible, doing exercises regularly, strictly following the medications, and taking care of wounds are the first steps of home recovery. 

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