A Patient's Guide - Acute Pain Management

The staff at Lourdes Hospital is sensitive to your pain. We believe that you are the person who can most accurately describe your pain. We will believe your reports. We will respond promptly and will address your concerns even though complete relief may not always be possible. We ask that you use a 1 - 10 scale (0 = no pain; 10 = the worst pain imaginable). If you do not understand this scale, please tell us so that we may meet your needs using another rating system. We are giving you this information to use as a reference. If you need us to  provide it to you in another language, please tell us so that you can participate in your care. We will ask you to rate your pain at least every 4 hours for the first 48 hours postoperatively.

What is Pain?

Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. Pain is your body's way of sending a warning to your brain. Your spinal cord and nerves provide the pathway for messages to travel to and from your brain and the other parts of your body.

Receptor nerve cells in and beneath your skin sense heat, cold, light, touch, pressure and pain. You have thousands of these receptor cells, most sense pain and the fewest sense cold. While there is an injury to your body -- in this case surgery -- these tiny cells send messages along nerves into your spinal cord and then up to your brain. Pain medicine blocks these messages or reduces their effect on your brain.

Sometimes pain may be just a nuisance, like a mild headache. At other times, pain that doesn't get better -- even after you take pain medicine -- may be a signal that there is a problem. After your operation, your nurses and doctors will ask you about your pain because they want you to be comfortable, but also because they want to know if something is wrong. Be sure to tell your doctors and nurses when you have pain.

Treatment Goals

People used to think that severe pain after surgery was something they "just had to put up with." Today, you can work with your nurses and doctors before and after surgery to prevent or relieve pain.

Pain control can help you:

  • Enjoy greater comfort while you heal.
  • Get well faster. With less pain, you can start walking, do your breathing exercises, and get your strength back more quickly.
  • Improve your results. Pain control may avoid some problems (such as pneumonia and blood clots).

Pain Control: What are the options?

Both drug and non-drug treatments can be successful in helping to prevent and control pain. The most common methods of pain control are described below. You and your doctors and nurses will decide which ones are right for you. Many people combine two or more methods to get greater relief.

Don't worry about getting "hooked" on pain medicines; studies show that this is very rare.

Methods for Pain Control

To get the best results, work with your doctors and nurses to choose the methods that will work best for you.

Your nurses and doctors want to make your surgery as pain free as they can. But you are the key to getting the best pain relief because pain is a personal experience. The amount or type of pain you feel may not be the same as others feel -- even those who have had the same operation.

Before Surgery

Non-drug treatment: Understand what operation the doctor is doing, why it is being done, and how it will be done. Learn how to do deep breathing and relaxation exercises.

During Surgery

Drug treatment: Receive general anesthesia, spinal anesthesia, or nerve blocks, or take a pain medicine through a small tube in your back (an epidural).

After Surgery

Drug treatment: Take pain medicine as a pill, shot, or suppository, or through a tube in your vein or back.

Non-drug treatment: Use massage, hot or cold packs, relaxation, music or other pastimes to distract you, positive thinking, or nerve stimulation (TENS).

What can you do to help keep your pain under control?

These seven steps can help you help yourself:

Before Surgery

1. Ask the doctor or nurse what to expect.

  • Will there be much pain after the surgery?
  • Where will it occur?
  • How long is it likely to last?

Being prepared helps put you in control. You may want to write down your questions before you meet with your doctor or nurse.

2. Discuss pain control options with your doctors and nurses.

  • Talk with your nurses and doctors about pain control methods that have worked well or not so well for you before.
  • Talk with your nurses and doctors about your concerns you may have about pain medicine.
  • Tell your doctors and nurses about your allergies to medicines you may have.
  • Ask about side effects that may occur with treatment.
  • Talk with your doctors and nurses about the medicines you take for other health problems. The doctors and nurses need to know, because mixing some drugs with some pain medicines can cause problems.

3. Talk about the schedule for pain medicines in the hospital.

Some people get pain medicines in the hospital only when they call the nurse to ask for them. Other ways to schedule pain medicines may provide better results.

  • Giving the pain pills or shots at set times. Instead of waiting until pain breaks through, you receive medicine at set times during the day to keep the pain under control.
  • Patient controlled analgesia (PCA) is available on doctor's orders. Please discuss with your physician. With PCA, you control when you get pain medicine. When you begin to feel pain, you press a button to inject the medicine through the intravenous (IV) tube in your vein.

For both ways, your nurses and doctors will ask you how the pain medicine is working and change the medicine, its dose, or its timing if you are still having pain.

4. Work with our doctors and nurses to make a pain control plan.

Doctors and nurses need your help to design the best plan for you.

After Surgery

5. Take (or ask for) pain relief drugs when pain first begins.

  • Take action when the pain starts.
  • If you know your pain will worsen when you start working or doing breathing exercises, take pain medicine first. It's harder to ease pain once it has taken hold.

This is a key step in proper pain control!

6. Help the doctors and nurses "measure" your pain.

  • They will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0 - 10. Or you may choose the words from the pain rating scale that best describes your pain.
  • Reporting your pain as a number helps the doctors and nurses know how well your treatment is working and whether to make any changes.

7. Tell the doctor or nurse about any pain that won't go away.

  • Don't worry about being a "bother."
  • Pain can be a sign of problems.
  • The nurses and doctors want and need to know about it.

Stick with your pain control plan if it's working. Your doctors and nurses can change the plan if your pain is not under control. You need to tell the nurses and doctors about your pain and how the pain control plan is working.

For more information about Outpatient Surgery, please call 607-798-5321.

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