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Pain Management After Surgery

Special note: Be sure to follow any specific post-operative instructions from your surgeon or nurse.

Once you’re home after surgery, you may have some pain, since even minor surgery causes swelling and breakdown of tissue. When it comes to effective pain management, the tips you may have learned in the hospital also work at home. To get the best pain relief possible, remember these points:

Man holding glass of water, preparing to take pill.

Use your medicine only as directed

  • If your pain is not relieved or if it gets worse, call your health care provider.

  • If pain lessens, try taking your medicine less often or in smaller doses.

Remember that medicines need time to work

  • Most pain relievers taken by mouth need at least 20 to 30 minutes to take effect. They may not reach their maximum effect for close to an hour. 

  • Take pain medicine at regular times as directed. Don’t wait until the pain gets bad to take it.

Time your medicine

  • Try to time your medicine so that you take it before beginning an activity, such as dressing or sitting at the table for dinner.

  • Taking your medicine at night may help you get a good night’s rest.

Eat lots of fruit and vegetables

  • Constipation is a common side effect with some pain medicines. Eating fruit, vegetables, and other foods high in fiber can help.

  • Drink lots of fluids.

  • Talk to your health care provider about taking a preventive bowel regimen.

Avoid drinking alcohol while taking pain medicine

  • Mixing alcohol and pain medicine can cause dizziness and slow your respiratory system. It can even be fatal.

Avoid driving or operating machinery while taking pain medicines that can cause drowsiness.

Online Medical Reviewer: Moloney Johns, Amanda, PA-C, MPAS, BBA
Online Medical Reviewer: Cyriac, James, MD
Date Last Reviewed: 6/8/2015
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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