- Effective pain management is critical to your recovery process. Either on the day before or the day of your surgery, your surgeon will provide you with a pain medication prescription.
- Please be aware that prescription narcotics can no longer be called into the pharmacy, so it is beneficial to have this prescribed in advance.
- For some surgeries, a nerve block is used. This makes the limb or surgical site numb and weak until it wears off. The duration of a nerve block varies for each person; it will typically last between 8 and 16 hours but for some people the numbness and weakness can last 24 hours or more.
- It is important that you stay ahead of the pain to keep it under control. If your limb or incision is numb on discharge, take the medication as soon as sensation begins to return. Don’t wait until the sensation or pain returns completely or the pain may become unmanageable. Take the pain medication prior to going to bed even if you still have numbness. You should have overlapping pain management medication in your body in case the block wears off during the night.
- If the pain medication wears off before the next dose is due, you may be able to supplement with a non-steroidal medication, such as Tylenol or Aleve. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever when the medication starts to wear off may provide enough relief to get you through to the next dose of prescribed pain medication. You may even be provided with a prescription for Naproxen to take twice a day. Please do not take any additional pain-relieving medications without consulting your surgeon first. Your surgeon will advise you about the appropriate medications, given your history and tolerance. Please note that taking blood-thinning medications may affect the protocol you are given.
ALTERNATIVES: ELEVATION AND ICE
There are other things you can do to manage pain. Elevation is critical. Elevation keeps the swelling down, which in turn lessens the pain. For an arm or hand, you want the elbow higher than the heart and the hand higher than the elbow. After knee and foot surgery, it is important to remember to put a pillow under the calf, not under the knee or foot. The heel of the foot should not rest on the pillow because a pressure sore could develop. When recovering from shoulder surgery it is best to sleep in a recliner or propped up on a lot of pillows. This way you are elevating your shoulder.
Ice may be helpful in controlling pain. You can use ice or gel packs, or a Cryo/Cuff. Cryo/Cuffs may be provided at the surgical center, and, if so, you will be instructed in their use and how often to apply them. Dr. Sealey’s patients may have an ice machine delivered to their house. For some patients, ice is not helpful because the dressing is too bulky. Please do not use ice without consulting your surgeon first.
If your pain is not controlled with pain medication, elevation, or ice, call your surgeon as soon as possible.