Controlling Your Pain After Surgery: What to expect while you are in the hospital

Physician Checking on Patient in HospitalPatients often fear the pain that goes along with surgery. And while a certain amount of pain is expected with any surgical procedure, many interventions are available to manage and control pain.

Everyone’s experience of pain is different. Physicians and nurses work with patients to determine the acceptable level of pain, which is the level at which the patient can function comfortably.

“We encourage patients to talk with their nurses and physicians about their pain management needs,” Veena Sharma, RN, nursing outcomes facilitator and developer of the Pain Resource Team at Memorial Medical Center said.

Pain Resource Champions at Memorial use a standard pain assessment tool to help the patient communicate his or her discomfort. The tool combines a numeric pain rating scale and a visual analog pain scale. The goal is always to keep pain in the 0-3 range, which is considered mild pain or within a patient’s acceptable level of pain.

In addition to medications prescribed by a physician, other options can keep patients within their acceptable level of pain before surgery, while in the hospital and after returning home. These include heat/cold compressions, repositioning, guided imagery (a deliberate daydream using all senses to focus on relaxation and well-being), distraction and music.

Relaxation uses the connection between mind and body to provide comfort. These relaxation techniques are intended to enhance and complement traditional medicine, never to replace it. For example, studies show patients who practice guided imagery and listen to music before and after surgery reported less pain, anxiety and need for pain medications.

“Communication is key. Patients must feel welcome to talk about their pain so they and their caregivers can do everything possible to manage it to an acceptable level,” Sharma said.