A Patient's Guide - Acute Pain Management
The staff at Lourdes Hospital is sensitive to your pain. We
believe that you are the person who can most accurately describe
your pain. We will believe your reports. We will respond promptly
and will address your concerns even though complete relief may not
always be possible. We ask that you use a 1 - 10 scale (0 = no
pain; 10 = the worst pain imaginable). If you do not understand
this scale, please tell us so that we may meet your needs using
another rating system. We are giving you this information to use as
a reference. If you need us to provide it to you in another
language, please tell us so that you can participate in your care.
We will ask you to rate your pain at least every 4 hours for the
first 48 hours postoperatively.
What is Pain?
Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be
wrong in your body. Pain is your body's way of sending a warning to
your brain. Your spinal cord and nerves provide the pathway for
messages to travel to and from your brain and the other parts of
Receptor nerve cells in and beneath your skin sense heat, cold,
light, touch, pressure and pain. You have thousands of these
receptor cells, most sense pain and the fewest sense cold. While
there is an injury to your body -- in this case surgery -- these
tiny cells send messages along nerves into your spinal cord and
then up to your brain. Pain medicine blocks these messages or
reduces their effect on your brain.
Sometimes pain may be just a nuisance, like a mild headache. At
other times, pain that doesn't get better -- even after you take
pain medicine -- may be a signal that there is a problem. After
your operation, your nurses and doctors will ask you about your
pain because they want you to be comfortable, but also because they
want to know if something is wrong. Be sure to tell your doctors
and nurses when you have pain.
People used to think that severe pain after surgery was
something they "just had to put up with." Today, you can work with
your nurses and doctors before and after surgery to prevent or
Pain control can help you:
- Enjoy greater comfort while you heal.
- Get well faster. With less pain, you can start walking, do your
breathing exercises, and get your strength back more quickly.
- Improve your results. Pain control may avoid some problems
(such as pneumonia and blood clots).
Pain Control: What are the options?
Both drug and non-drug treatments can be successful in helping
to prevent and control pain. The most common methods of pain
control are described below. You and your doctors and nurses will
decide which ones are right for you. Many people combine two or
more methods to get greater relief.
Don't worry about getting "hooked" on pain medicines; studies
show that this is very rare.
Methods for Pain Control
To get the best results, work with your doctors and nurses to
choose the methods that will work best for you.
Your nurses and doctors want to make your surgery as pain free
as they can. But you are the key to getting the best pain relief
because pain is a personal experience. The amount or type of pain
you feel may not be the same as others feel -- even those who have
had the same operation.
Non-drug treatment: Understand what operation the doctor is
doing, why it is being done, and how it will be done. Learn how to
do deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
Drug treatment: Receive general anesthesia,
spinal anesthesia, or nerve blocks, or take a pain medicine through
a small tube in your back (an epidural).
Drug treatment: Take pain medicine as a pill,
shot, or suppository, or through a tube in your vein or back.
Non-drug treatment: Use massage, hot or cold
packs, relaxation, music or other pastimes to distract you,
positive thinking, or nerve stimulation (TENS).
What can you do to help keep your pain under control?
These seven steps can help you help
1. Ask the doctor or nurse what to expect.
- Will there be much pain after the surgery?
- Where will it occur?
- How long is it likely to last?
Being prepared helps put you in control. You may want to write
down your questions before you meet with your doctor or nurse.
2. Discuss pain control options with your doctors and
- Talk with your nurses and doctors about pain control methods
that have worked well or not so well for you before.
- Talk with your nurses and doctors about your concerns you may
have about pain medicine.
- Tell your doctors and nurses about your allergies to medicines
you may have.
- Ask about side effects that may occur with treatment.
- Talk with your doctors and nurses about the medicines you take
for other health problems. The doctors and nurses need to know,
because mixing some drugs with some pain medicines can cause
3. Talk about the schedule for pain medicines in the
Some people get pain medicines in the hospital only when they
call the nurse to ask for them. Other ways to schedule pain
medicines may provide better results.
- Giving the pain pills or shots at set times. Instead of waiting
until pain breaks through, you receive medicine at set times during
the day to keep the pain under control.
- Patient controlled analgesia (PCA) is available on doctor's
orders. Please discuss with your physician. With PCA, you control
when you get pain medicine. When you begin to feel pain, you press
a button to inject the medicine through the intravenous (IV) tube
in your vein.
For both ways, your nurses and doctors will ask you how the pain
medicine is working and change the medicine, its dose, or its
timing if you are still having pain.
4. Work with our doctors and nurses to make a pain
Doctors and nurses need your help to design the best plan for
5. Take (or ask for) pain relief drugs when pain first
- Take action when the pain starts.
- If you know your pain will worsen when you start working or
doing breathing exercises, take pain medicine first. It's harder to
ease pain once it has taken hold.
This is a key step in proper pain control!
6. Help the doctors and nurses "measure" your
- They will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of 0 - 10. Or
you may choose the words from the pain rating scale that best
describes your pain.
- Reporting your pain as a number helps the doctors and nurses
know how well your treatment is working and whether to make any
7. Tell the doctor or nurse about any pain that won't go
- Don't worry about being a "bother."
- Pain can be a sign of problems.
- The nurses and doctors want and need to know about it.
Stick with your pain control plan if it's working. Your doctors
and nurses can change the plan if your pain is not under control.
You need to tell the nurses and doctors about your pain and how the
pain control plan is working.
For more information about Outpatient
Surgery, please call 607-798-5321.