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How do you control pain after surgery?

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Quick Answer

To control pain after surgery, doctors recommend intravenous patient-controlled analgesia, patient-controlled epidural analgesia, nerve blocks or oral pain medications, according to Cleveland Clinic. Pain-control methods that do not involve medications include listening to relaxation tapes, using guided imagery and applying heat or cold therapy.

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Surgeons may suggest one or more pain treatments based on the type of surgery and extent of pain a patient experiences, states Cleveland Clinic. A patient-controlled analgesia is a digital pump that enables the patient to press a button to obtain pain medicine through an intravenous line in the arm. It does not require injecting needles into the muscle, and it usually offers consistent pain relief.

Patient-controlled epidural analgesia involves using a pump that delivers medicine to the patient’s body through a thin tube called an epidural catheter, explains Cleveland Clinic. A sedating medication is given to the patient during placement of the epidural catheter to minimize discomfort. Epidural analgesia typically provides better pain relief and leads to faster recovery compared to intravenous medications.

Doctors recommend a nerve block when post-surgery pain affects a smaller area of the body, notes Cleveland Clinic. A nerve block considerably reduces the amount of narcotic medication given to patients, thus causing fewer side effects. Common side effects associated with pain control treatments include nausea, drowsiness, itching and vomiting. Doctors may also recommend taking oral pain medications, typically every four hours, during recovery.

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