Anyone who has ever through surgery is all too familiar with the excruciating pain that follows most procedures. Post-surgical pain is inevitable, but there are means to mitigate and manage the pain to make it less debilitating, and reduce the dependence on medication. Proper pain management starts immediately after surgery and continues through the entire recovery period.
There are various types of pain medications used during the surgery and recovery process. Local and general anesthetics are used before surgery to numb the pain, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioids are given post-surgery to help control the pain.
Using medication to control pain after surgery should always be done under the guidance of a doctor. Medications have various effects on each patient, and this is even more prevalent when a patient is taking multiple medications and they are interacting with each other.
There are two primary reasons why pain control is essential post-surgery:
1) When pain is managed well, it makes the patient feel more comfortable, reducing stress, and helping the body heal. When the body heals well, there are also fewer complications after surgery.
2) A patient’s return to their normal lifestyle is expedited by proper pain management, and that “normalness”, in turn, expedites overall healing.
The Purpose of Opioids
Currently, most surgeons have discontinued prescribing strong pain medications like opioids. Opioids control pain by lowering the number of pain signals that the body sends to the brain and altering the way the brain responds to pain. They are effective in quickly reducing pain, but are highly addictive, and hence the reason for the reduction in proscribing them.
Even though opioids effectively manage pain, there are significant adverse side effects too. Substance abuse is the primary risk. Some symptoms of opioid addiction and opioid overduse include:
- loss of consciousness
- shallow breathing
- nausea and vomiting
- slurred speech
- depression and anxiety
To combat opioid addiction surgeons are exploring effective alternatives for pain mitigation and management.
There are emerging surgical techniques that speed healing, and that in turn greatly abbreviates the use of pain medications and the chance that a patient will misuse the medication. Pre-surgical instructions increasingly call for the patient to achieve some level of physical fitness if possible. A more physically fit a patient is, the more apt they are to heal faster and with less pain.
Oral medications are now used more frequently when possible. They are absorbed into the body slower than injectables and are less likely to be abused or addictive. They are less expensive than injected medicines that are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. If the pain is severe enough then they are used in conjunction.
Today’s high-profile epidemic of opioid addiction has mobilized the medical community to create new surgical protocols for pain management that still offers relief for the patient while mitigating against the addictive side effects. When taking opioid medicine, make sure you only take them under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner. Please feel free to contact Desert West Surgery if you have any questions concerning surgery and pain management, and schedule a time to come in and talk to us.
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