Pain Management After Surgery

Management of pain is pivotal in smoothly recovering from shoulder surgeries, irrespective of the type. It has been conclusively proven by scientific studies that effective pain management after surgery is the single factor independently contributing to faster functional recovery and rehabilitation of the patient. Especially, if the patient “wakes up” from anesthesia without pain, there’s nothing like it in smoothing out the entire postoperative recovery.

To achieve this, orthopedic surgeons usually inject a long acting anesthetic inside the operated shoulder joint, which is effective for about 8 hours following administration. It numbs the pain sensing nerves thereby alleviating pain.

An opioid medication like morphine or pethidine is also injected at the end of surgery along with a medicine to prevent vomiting induced by these drugs. The opioids are effective painkillers and on waking up, the patient is sometimes surprised that he is feeling little pain, if at all.

Similarly, a shoulder pad is applied to the operated shoulder immediately following the procedure even before the patient wakes up from anesthesia. Basically, it is a form of cryotherapy (using cold temperatures for pain relief) effective in alleviating pain postoperatively.

When the patient undergoes conservative open shoulder surgery, he is given further painkillers by oral route or in injectable forms during his stay in the hospital in the first 24 hours. The medicines used can be are usually anti-inflammatories.

Patients may also be equipped with “patient controlled analgesia”. Here the patient himself can adjust the dose of his painkiller according to his needs during his postoperative stay in the hospital, especially the first 24 to 48 hours. The advantage with this method is that it does not require a nurse to monitor or give the medicine. Studies have shown that postoperative recovery is optimal with patient controlled analgesia.