Post-Operative Pain Relief

When you leave surgery, drugs used by the anaesthetists to numb pain (analgesia) will still be in effect. These will wear off over the following 24 hours, and after this you will need pain relief provided by your ward doctors and nurses.

There are many different types of pain relief used in the hospital and after you are discharged. The choice of medications will depend on:

  • The surgery you have had
  • The rehabilitation you will need
  • How well you tolerate the medications

Your doctors and nurses will watch for some of the common side effects of pain-killers, including constipation and nausea. Other complications your doctors and nurses will look for include compartment syndrome and DVT. Please tell your doctors if you are very uncomfortable.

Pain Relief without Medications

There are a number of "non-pharmacological" techniques to help relieve pain that can be very effective. For more information see:

Patient Controlled Analgesia (PCA)

In some cases, a device that delivers bursts of analgesics can be set up.

A patient controlled analgesia which, when you press a button, releases a painkiller into your IV drip. This can cause nausea and vomiting, sleepiness, and/ or trouble emptying your bladder. These pain-killing devices will stay in for 24 – 48 hours depending on the amount of pain.

Opiates | Morphine, Oxycodone, Oxynorm

Opiod based pain-killers are an effective and generally safe way to relieve pain.

Strong opiods, like morphine, can be injected into the blood while in hospital. Opiod tablets, like Oxycodone and Oxynorm, can be prescribed to take at home.

Some side effects of these drugs include:

  • Abdominal discomfort including nausea and constipation - patients often require laxatives during their stay in hospital
  • Drowsiness, dizziness, tiredness, headaches, confusion and anxiety

While it is true that opiods are potentially addictive drugs, it is virtually unheard of for patients prescribed oxycodone or oxynorm to become addicted from a short course of pain-killers. The danger of addiction only becomes problematic when opiods are used for long periods of time. If you are concerned about addiction, talk to your doctor. Don't be afraid to take your medication, as being brave and trying to tolerate the pain can reduce your ability to participate in rehabilitation.

Oxynorm and Oxycodone and similar drugs - if you have prescriptions for both, please check with your doctor that you need both.

NSAIDs & Paracetamol

NSAIDs, like ibuprofen/nurofen, and paracetamol or panadol are often used to help with pain relief post-op.

While these drugs are not strong enough alone to relieve much of the pain associated with surgery, they are extremely useful as an additional drug.

By using over the counter drugs in combination with strong pain-killers like oxycodone, doctors are able to keep the dose of the opiod low. This is extremely important as it can reduce some of the side effects of opiods.


Some Important Dos & Dont's

  • Tell your doctors about all your regular medication and make sure you keep taking these as instructed
  • Make sure you have enough pain-killers to allow you to participate fully in rehabilitation. If you have excess pain, talk to your physiotherapist or your doctor.
  • Make sure you take panadol or nurofen as prescribed, even if you are taking other pain-killers.
4 August, 2012