Pain after Joint Replacement Surgery
Pain after joint replacement surgery is undoubtedly one of the things people fear most about the procedure. This is understandable, but pain after surgery can and should be managed. Pain control maximizes your ability to participate in therapy and recover as quickly as possible. Throughout your recovery, doctors, nurses and therapists will ask about your pain level, and it’s essential that you provide as much detail and honesty as possible.
Pain at the Hospital (Before and After Surgery)
While you’re still at the hospital, you should discuss your pain control options with your nurses and doctors.
- Let your healthcare providers know as soon as you begin having pain.
- Take your pain medication at regular times. Most pain medication taken by mouth needs at least 20-30 minutes to take effect.
- Rate your pain using the 1-10 pain scale. (Reporting your pain as a number helps the doctors and nurses know how well your treatment is working and whether or not to make any changes.)
A number of pain control options are available, including:
- Patient controlled analgesia (delivered through your IV)
- Oral medications prescribed by your doctor
- Pain pumps inserted at or near the surgical site during surgery
- Temporary nerve blocks administered prior to surgery by your anesthesiologist
- Ice, heat and other no-medicine options.
Common Questions about Pain after Surgery
Q. Could I become addicted to the pain medication?A.
It is rare to become addicted to medicine used for pain control. Addiction means a person is taking a medicine to satisfy emotional or psychological needs rather than for medical reasons. Addiction is often confused with “physical dependence”. Physical dependence occurs after you have been using a narcotic for prolonged periods of time. It is a chemical change in your body causing withdrawal symptoms when the medicine is abruptly stopped. This can be avoided by gradually reducing the dosage over several days. Physical dependence is not addiction.
Q. Could I build up a tolerance to the pain medication so it stops working?A.
For some medicines, after a person takes the same amount for a long period of time, the body doesn’t respond as well to the same amount. Larger or more frequent doses of medicine are needed to obtain the same effect. This is called “tolerance” and it sometimes happens in people who take narcotics for pain control over a long period of time. Following your surgery expect to take pain medication for a short period of time.
Q. What if I have side effects from the pain medication?A.
All drugs have potential side effects. Not everyone who takes a medicine will experience side effects. Some common side effects of narcotic medications are drowsiness, constipation, and nausea. Always discuss any side effects with your healthcare provider.
Q. What if I don’t take my pain medication?A.
You may not recover as quickly. Pain medication allows you to stay mobile and helps you get the most out of your exercises. Pain causes increased fatigue, which also slows recovery. Pain adds stress to yourself and your caregivers.
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