Surgery and Pain

Did you know that only one out of four people have adequate pain relief after surgery?  A study of post-surgical patients showed that women are more likely to get inadequate pain relief than men.  The elderly also were less likely to get adequate opiates and Hispanics were two times more likely to get no analgesics at all.

Poorly managed pain leads to poor sleep, lowered immunity, slow wound healing, demoralization and the possibility of chronic pain when the area should be healed and pain free.

Peter Levine, in “Freedom from Pain” says that “Even though sensations urrounding surgery are intended to heal, the body may perceive little difference between them and the sensations of being attacked and torn apart (p. 118).  Pain sensors in the skin, muscles, and viscera are sending threat messages to the brain.  Obviously, this can lead to psychological trauma.

Meet your surgeon before hand and be sure your pain management concerns are adequately addressed and your questions answered.  It can be helpful to have someone with you.  Discuss pain medications with your surgeon, finding out his or her attitude toward opiates.  Tell him if you have had any experiences with being undermedicated or any adverse reactions to medications.

Before your surgery I highly recommend getting Belleruth Naparstek’s  CD “Successful Surgery” from It helps reduce the pre-surgery anxiety.

During the surgery, listening to soothing music is good.  Also you could ask that someone on the surgical team says positive phrases to you while you are under the anesthesia, such as:  “Everything is going well.”

Patient controlled analgesia can be helpful.  This involves having an IV that is attached to a device that delivers the pain medication to you when you push a button.  Of course, the amount of medication can receive in any period of time is regulated and programed.  You will appreciate  not having to wait for the nurse to have time to give you a pain medication when you need it.

Patricia Kay Youngson

Patricia Kay Youngson

Article written by Patricia Kay Youngson RN, Counselor working with pain isues.  E-mail:, website

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