Managing your pain after surgery

Your comfort and well-being are important to us. Your doctors and nurses will work with you during your hospital stay to keep your pain level low. Your care team will keep a close watch on your pain and will provide pain relief measures when your pain becomes too great. 

What is pain?

Pain is a bad feeling caused by injury or damage to your body. It can also be mental or emotional.

Pain may cause problems with your daily activities, mood, appetite, or sleep. Acute pain most often starts suddenly and has a known cause. It may be from surgery, broken bones, dental work, burns, or other wounds.

In most cases, acute pain does not last longer than six months. It goes away when the cause of pain has been treated has healed. 

What is chronic pain?

Chronic pain lasts longer. It can be caused by

  • Long-term disease such as cancer, arthritis, migraines, back problems
  • A physical injury such as after surgery or accidents
  • Damage to nerves
  • Problems with the body chemicals that send pain messages to the brain

Sometimes it’s hard to find the cause of chronic pain. The medicines used for acute pain may not be right for treating chronic pain.

What are pain scales?

Pain scales help doctors and nurses measure how much pain you feel. You can choose from many types of pain scales. Tell your nurse which pain scale you want to use while you are in the hospital. It is best to use the same scale during your stay. That way we can accurately track your pain levels. 

Your nurse will ask you about pain several times per day. At any time, please let your nurse know if you are having pain. Your nurse will need the following facts from you:

  • Where in your body is the pain located?
  • What is your current pain level? (Use your chosen pain scale.)
  • Is the pain at a level you can accept?
  • What does the pain feel like?

People describe pain in many ways. It is helpful for us to know what your pain feels like in order to chose the right treatment for your pain. It helps us see how the pain responds to treatment. Some words that might help you describe your pain might be:

  • Aching
  • Sore
  • Sharp
  • Throbbing
  • Dull
  • Constant

Pain medicines

Ask for pain relief measures if your pain is too great. We may be able to give you pain medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin. You may hear us call these “as-needed medicines” or “PRN” medicines. We may suggest non-medicine measures such as:

  • Hot packs
  • Cold packs
  • Music
  • Relaxation recordings

Often medicine and non-medicine treatments used together work best for handling pain. 

Last reviewed: 
August 2018

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