Pain Control After Surgery

Your nurses and doctors want to make your surgery as pain free as they can, within safety measures. It is not practical or desirable to eliminate all postoperative pain, but techniques now available make pain reduction to acceptable levels a realistic goal. You are the key to getting the best pain relief because pain is personal. The amount or type of pain you feel may not be the same as others feel – even those who have had the same operation

Ask your doctor and/or nurse what to expect concerning the amount of postoperative surgical pain you may have, where it will occur, and how long it is likely to last. Being prepared for pain helps put you in control of your pain

Discuss pain control options with your doctors. Tell them what has worked and not worked for you in the past. Discuss any concerns you may have about pain medicine. Ask about side effects of treatment. Make sure you let your doctors and nurses know all the medicine you currently take. Mixing some pain medicine with certain medications could cause problems.

After surgery, take (or ask for) pain relief drugs when pain first begins. Take action as soon as the pain starts. It is harder to ease pain once it has taken hold.

Measurement of Pain

Help the doctors and nurses measure your pain. We will ask you to give your pain a number value and to rate your pain on a scale of 0-10, with the following suggested guidelines:

  • 0 - 3
    • A personal pain rating of 0-3, no pain to mild pain, may require no pain medication at that particular time.
  • 4 - 7
    • A personal pain rating of 4-7, moderate pain to severe pain, would require pain medication at that time, and a re-evaluation of the pain level in a reasonable amount of time to check the medicine’s effectiveness.
  • 8 - 10
    • A personal pain rating of 8-10, severe pain to worst possible pain, would require continued pain medication and frequent evaluations of the pain medicine’s effects.

Set a personal pain control goal for yourself (for example, having no pain greater than 2 or 3 on the pain scale). Reporting your pain in numbers and setting a pain control goal helps the doctors and nurses know how well your treatment is working and whether to make any changes. Continuous, unrelieved pain can be a sign of problems and the nurses and doctors need this information.


Relaxation can play a key role in helping you with your post-operative pain control. Relaxation decreases anxiety and tension, which in turn decreases pain. Proper relaxation techniques can increase tolerance to pain and reduce the amount of narcotic necessary to control pain. Learning simple relaxation techniques can be easy and can help you feel in control over your pain, which in turn reduces anxiety and tension

Relaxation Exercise –Slow Rhythmic Breathing

  1. Breathe in slowly and deeply.
  2. As you breathe out slowly, feel yourself relax. Let the tension leave your body
  3. Breathe in and out slowly and regularly – at a comfortable rate for you. Try abdominal breathing – ask your nurse for help, if you are not sure how.
  4. To help you focus: breathe in and say silently to yourself, “in, two, three.” Breathe out as you say silently to yourself, “out, two, three.” or
    • Each time you breathe out, say silently to yourself a word such as “peace” or “relax”
  5. Imagine you are doing this in a place that is very calming and relaxing for you.
  6. Do steps 1-4 only once, or repeat steps 3 and 4 for up to 20 minutes.
  7. End with a slow, deep breath. As you breathe out, say silently to yourself “I feel relaxed.”

Additional Points: Try to get in a comfortable position. Try closing your eyes or focus on an object. This exercise can be used for a few seconds or for up to 20 minutes.