Acute Pain

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Pain relief after an operation

An operation will inevitably result in some pain but you should always try to minimise the amount of pain your body is feeling as this helps to reduce the stresses on the body. You can do this by using your pain relief medicines effectively. This will encourage healing of your body, enable you to recover more quickly from your operation and ensure a quicker return to a normal level of activity.

Pain relief on the day of your operation

What you receive on the day of your operation will depend on the type of operation you are having and will be decided after discussion between you and your anaesthetist.

Pain relief to take home

If your operation was planned in advance, the pre-assessment clinic staff will have asked you to stock up on pain relief medicines for use at home after your operation. When you are ready to go home, the hospital will give you a supply of any stronger pain relief medicines you might need to take home with you. If your operation was unplanned, you will be given a supply of pain relief medicines to take home with you. If you are already taking any pain relief medicines please let your anaesthetist know. You should also let them know if you have any allergies or if you are unable to take any specific pain relief medicines.

Taking more than one pain relief medicine at the same time

Pain medicinesbelong to 3 main groups

Group 1: e.g. Paracetamol, Acetaminophen

Group 2: Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs- e.g. Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Diclofenac, Celecoxib.

Group 3: Opioids- Codeine, Dihydrocodeine, Tramadol, Oramorph, Morphine, Oxycodone.

It is possible to take one medicine from each of the three groups at the same time, for example paracetamol, ibuprofen and dihydrocodeine can be used together at the recommended doses.

Do not take more than one medicine from each group. For example, do not take ibuprofen and diclofenac, or dihydrocodeine and tramadol together.

Please read the information leaflet regarding side effects and discuss with the pharmacists on dicharge if you are unsure.

What to do if you still have pain

If you feel sure you have reached the maximum dose of your medicines but are still in pain you should seek medical advice. You may have been given a contact number to call by the hospital. If not, you should contact your GP, local walk-in centre or emergency department, depending on how bad your pain feels. They will be able to identify if there is a problem that has caused you to experience a pain level that is higher than expected for your condition.

How to stop pain relief medicines

If you have been taking a combination of paracetamol, anti-inflammatory and codeine-based medicines regularly, it can sometimes be confusing to know how to stop them. Do not stop all of them suddenly as your pain may come back and it will then be harder to get back under control. You should keep taking paracetamol regularly while you gradually stop the codeine-based medicine first, and then the anti-inflammatory (if you were able to take this type of medicine). Pain can feel worse at night, when there is less to distract you from the feeling. If this is the case, stop the day-time doses first and continue to take pain relief medicines at night until you feel ready to stop these doses.

What to do with left-over pain relief medicines

Never give your prescribed tablets to other people, as they may not be safe for them to take. You can take left-over medicines to your local pharmacy for safe disposal.

Common pain relief medicines and their side effects

Always read the information leaflet provided inside the medication boxes. If you have any questions about your medicines, you can ask your local pharmacist (chemist) or your GP.