While pain is expected and normal after some procedures, the treatments available today mean that most people don’t have to put up with severe pain. Healthcare providers specializing in pain management can help you control or relieve your pain.
Managing your pain makes you feel more comfortable, and it does a lot more than that. Good pain management allows both your mind and body to focus on healing — and healing faster can help prevent complications. As you and your healthcare providers manage your pain, expect that:
- You’ll feel less stress. Feeling comfortable reduces the stress that comes with pain. Less stress means your mind and body can both work harder on healing.
- You’ll be able to move around more easily. If you feel less pain, it’s easier to do the physical therapy and breathing exercises that will get your strength back more quickly. You may even leave the hospital sooner.
- You may have fewer complications after your procedure. People whose pain is well controlled seem to do better after procedures. For example, they don’t have as many problems such as pneumonia or blood clots.
To treat your pain, your healthcare providers need to know what’s happening in your body. This is the role you play in your care. Your most important job is to let them know how you feel. If the pain can’t be controlled or it gets worse, it may be a sign of a complication that the doctor needs to know about.
- Rate your pain. A pain rating scale is a tool to help you describe how much pain you’re feeling. You generally rate your pain on a scale using numbers.
- Describing your pain. In addition to knowing how much pain you feel, it also helps to know what kind of pain you feel. Consider where and when it hurts, what makes it feel better or worse, and what the pain sensation feels like (dull, sharp, shooting, etc.).
There are many methods of relieving pain:
- Pain pills
- IV/catheter delivering continual medication
- Local anesthetic
Which method works best for you depends on the procedure you’ve had, your medical condition, and your past experiences with pain management. You and your healthcare providers will make this decision. If it doesn’t work well enough, they may make changes. You may also be given a different pain treatment as you heal and your pain decreases.
How much pain medication will I need?
Everyone handles pain differently. Some people can tolerate a higher level of pain than others. Your healthcare providers will work with you to find the right amount and combination of medications, and decide how long you should take them.
What is my pain management goal?
Successful pain management may not take away all of your pain. The goal is to reduce or control your pain enough that you can rest and do the activities that will help you recover.
Risks and side effects depend on the type of medication; however, a few basic safety tips can help you limit risks:
- Don’t take more medication than your healthcare provider tells you to.
- Never use alcohol or street drugs when taking opioid pain medications. The combination can kill you.
- Don’t take your medications with any other pills unless your healthcare provider says it’s okay.This includes vitamins, herbs, or any other supplements that you usually take.
- Don’t drive or use any heavy machinery until you know how the medication affects you.
- Keep the medication in the bottle it came in. The label has instructions and information you need.
- Don’t share your pain medication with anyone. Don’t give your pills to friends or family members, even if the person is in pain.
- Lock up medication where it’s safe. Don’t keep your pain pills in your medicine cabinet where anyone can find them. Ask your pharmacist where you can take any leftover pills, or see if you can take them to your local police department for disposal.
An appropriate medication administration plan provides many benefits:
- Assist your healing process
- Increase movement and mobility
- Reduce complications
- Increase comfort and decrease stress
As you and your healthcare providers work together, you can determine the most effective treatment and dosage with the fewest side effects. Each type of pain medication is administered differently:
- Pain pills deliver medication to your entire body. Pain pills are often given after minor surgery or after pain has been initially treated with another method.
- IV stands for “intravenous,” which means “into the vein.” An IV is a catheter inserted directly into a vein. It can also be given as a shot into the vein. It’s used to deliver pain medication throughout your body. The catheter stays in your vein all the time the medication is being used. Medication given this way goes through your body fast, so it starts to work quickly.
- Local anesthetics blocks pain signals in a specific area of your body. It is usually given as a shot or through a catheter. It’s given in the skin or muscle around your incision, into a joint, or around specific nerves. Local anesthetics numb only the targeted area, so you can remain awake and alert. Local anesthetics can be used before, during, or after a procedure.
- An epidural is a procedure to block pain in the hips, knees, pelvis, chest, or abdomen. A doctor injects pain medication into the epidural space that surrounds your spinal cord. It can be delivered through a catheter or as a shot.
You will continue to work with your doctor throughout your medication administration plan, ensuring your type and dosage of pain management is working as it should. If you experience any of the following contact your provider immediately:
- Increase in pain, or pain that you can’t tolerate
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs
- Weakness, numbness, or tingling where you don’t expect it
- Not having a bowel movement
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
- Redness, swelling, or drainage around the catheter
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Skin rash
- A ringing, buzzing, or whistling sound in your ears
- A metallic taste in your mouth, or numbness or tingling around your mouth and lips
- Coolness, tightness, or pain around your incision
- Blurred vision
- Persistent headache