Effective pain control after surgery can help the overall success of the back surgery. Almost all surgical procedures cause mild to severe postoperative pain, and this is one of the greatest worries of many back surgery patients. Even so, patients are rarely prepared for the type of pain they will experience after the operation, and a systematic pain control approach is rarely used.
Develop a Pain Control Plan for After Back Surgery
The spine surgeon should have a pain control plan in place prior to the back surgery and should discuss it with the patient. This includes setting realistic expectations about the type and level of postoperative pain and providing instructions on how to respond when it occurs.
Follow Pain Control Guidelines
The following are a few simple pain control guidelines that can help a patient decrease suffering (pain relief), reduce complications, and enhance the overall back surgery outcome:
- Identify the person who will be responsible for your postoperative pain management
- Ask for accurate expectations about the postoperative pain. This will help alleviate anxiety and worry when the pain occurs and give you a greater sense of control
- Discuss pain medicine options with your doctor prior to the spine surgery. This might include the patient controlled analgesia (PCA), time-contingent scheduling, and options for analgesic medications.
- Get information about non-medication pain relief options, such as cognitive-behavioral methods, relaxation techniques, modalities (hot/cold packs, etc) and transcutaneous nerve stimulation (TNS), among others
- Learn how to alert the healthcare staff about increased pain, especially at the beginning of a flare-up cycle. This will help the staff "stay ahead of the pain" for more effective management.
- Have a good understanding (and agreement with your spine surgeon) about how pain control will be managed after discharge from the hospital.