Is It Time For My Pain Pill Yet?

So, you just had some sort of surgery and you are on your way home from the outpatient surgery center.   These days, quite a few big surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis.  What this means is that you are going to be at home for all of your recovery.  In my opinion, most people are not fully prepared for the process or recovering from an outpatient surgery.

The process is, you show up at the surgery center at some crazy time like 6:30 in the morning, still in your sweat pants and tennis shoes.  After completing all of this paper work, most of which is exactly duplicate of what you have on file at our doctor’s office, you get to sit down and wait in the waiting room for another 30-40 minutes.  At some point, a nurse pokes their head through this big door that leads to who knows where and asks for you to come with them.

Okay, so you say your good byes to the nice soul that got up at 6am to drive you to the surgery center and head off into the unknown world of surgery behind the door.  After changing into this little surgery gown, the best part comes; now is the time that you are laying on the hospital bed and the nurse brings in the blankets from the blanket warmer.  If you have ever experienced this feeling, you know what I mean.  The warmth and weight of these blankets is sweeter than cotton candy.

Count backward from 100: 99, 98… out.  The next thing you know a few hours have past and you are waking up with this incredibly groggy feeling in the recovery room. “How do you feel?”, “What is your pain number?”, “Would you like some ice chips?”, “Do you feel any nausea?”  It feels like you just got there and here it is, 5 or 6 hours later, and the nurse is calling your nice driver to come and pick you up.  In your mind you are feeling, “Wait, I just woke up and you are sending me home?”

You receive a binder full of discharge instructions and then sign a paper saying that you understand each and every word.  Before you know it, we are back to the first paragraph, in the car on the way home.  Again, you are now preparing yourself for the process of surgery recovery, in your home with your family. 

Finally you get home, get settled in an easy chair in the living room, turn to your loving caregiver who has taken care to get you settled in so nicely and ask, “Is it time for my pain pill yet?”  Well, hopefully, you have already picked up your pain medication from the pharmacy and they have counseled you about all of the important information about your prescription.  After an outpatient surgical procedure, chances are, you will experience some significant pain for the first 48-72 hours.  After that, depending upon the procedure, the pain may begin to decrease.  

It is important to follow the directions on the label of your prescription bottle for dosing your pain medication, especially for the first couple days.  Go ahead and treat the pain as prescribed.  After 3-4 days of treatment, the need for pain medication may decrease.  It is important to understand, unless otherwise specified by your doctor, that your pain medication is for the acute surgical post-operative pain only.  This means that over the course of usually 7-10 days, your need post-operative pain medication will become less and less. 

If you notice that your pain does not begin to decrease, or worsens, after 3-4 days of rest and recovery, please call your doctor to discuss this with them.   Your doctor will advise you on how many days you should rest before becoming active after your surgery.  This is an important process for a complete recovery.  It is common for folks to begin to feel much better after 7-10 days and want to begin normal activities.  If you begin your normal routine too soon, you may harm your recovery process and cause further injury. 

In the past, most all surgeries were performed in a hospital followed by an extensive period of rest and recovery….in a hospital bed in a hospital.  Many factors have led to the process described above of patients having their surgery, waking up, and then spending the next two weeks recovering at home.  If we were in the hospital we would surely rest because there really isn’t anything else to do.  At home, we have distraction after distraction which may compromise our recovery. 

My point here is, prepare yourself and your family for your recovery.  Don’t sell yourself short by decreasing your recovery time just because you feel you need to get up and work around the house.  Treat your pain as necessary, especially for the first 3-4 days post-surgery, and be grateful to your loving caregivers who bring you soup and take care of you during your recovery period.

Please feel free to share your surgery recovery stories in the comment section below.  Thanks for your participation!

If you would like listen to any Medication Specific Counseling SessionTM for any of the pain medications usually prescribed for post-operative pain, please register to becomea member  of AudibleRxTM and have full access to all of the sessions for a full five years.

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