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surgical pain management

Pain is defined as an unpleasant sensation, occurring in various degrees of severity as a result of injury, disease or emotional disorder. It occurs when nerve cells in your body send messages to your brain and is felt immediately following surgery or an injury as a result of trauma to the affected tissue. At Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital, excellent pain control is our goal.

Why is pain management important?

It is important to manage postoperative pain because it allows you to:

  • Enjoy increased comfort while recovering
  • Return to regular activity levels faster
  • Improve quality of daily life, including your better mood, appetite and sleep
  • Decrease your risk of complications such as pneumonia and blood clots

How pain is measured?

Pain is subjective and each patient’s experience is different. In order to manage your pain effectively, you will be asked to rate and describe your pain throughout your surgical experience so your doctors can continually assess what is causing you pain.

During your recovery, it is helpful for the medical team to know what makes the pain improve or worsen, and how it is affecting your appetite and routine activities such as sleep. Some people may experience more pain than others after surgery. Factors such as type of surgery, age, personal pain tolerance and anxiety may result in varying levels of pain.

How pain is managed?

Your medical team will use a combination of pain medications and non-drug pain relief methods to help control your pain. Pain medication can be delivered in a variety of ways including:

  • Oral
  • Intravenous (IV)
  • Intramuscular injections (IM)
  • Transdermal, through a patch on your skin
  • Epidural

Some patients may use a Patient Controlled Analgesic (PCA) which allows the patient to push a button and give themselves controlled doses of pain medication into their intravenous site. In addition to medication, non-drug relief methods may be used, including:

  • Education: ask questions and learn about what can be done to relieve your pain.
  • Cold therapy: ice helps to reduce swelling and inflammation to the affected area.
  • Relaxation: techniques such as abdominal breathing and jaw relaxation may help increase comfort levels.
  • Guided imagery: a process of using mental images may create a desired state of relaxation or pain relief.

Misconceptions and fears

Some people refuse to take pain medication because they have fear or concerns. Common misconceptions and fears include:

  • Fear of addiction: research studies have shown there is less than a 1% chance of addiction when pain medication is used for medical reasons.
  • Side effects: pain medications can cause a variety of side effects. These include nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness and slowed breathing. These effects can be prevented and/or treated and are closely monitored by your medical team.
  • Appearing weak: some people view taking pain medication as a sign of weakness and want to tough it out. This may limit activity, slow recovery and possibly increase the risk for complications.
  • Bothering the nurse: Every person has the right to adequate pain relief. Asking for pain medication is not being a bother or nuisance. Caring for our patients is our priority and we want to make sure you are comfortable.

Your role in pain management

It is very important that you communicate with your nurses and doctors. Take action and let them know as soon as pain starts. It is harder to manage pain once it has taken hold or reaches severe levels.

  • If you are not receiving any relief from your current medication, a change in dosing or medication may be needed.
  • Discuss what has been effective and ineffective in the past.
  • Talk to your nurses and doctors about concerns you have about pain medication, tell them about your allergies or reactions to pain medication and discuss side effects of the drugs you are receiving.



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