How to manage your pain after knee replacement surgery
Types of pain
Pain can last less than 3 to 6 months (acute), last a long time (chronic) or be severe and intense (breakthrough).
Pain can come and go with injury, recovery and/or illness.
Your right to pain management
All patients have the right to have their pain managed. Proper treatment of pain is necessary for you to achieve the best results during your recovery.
If you do not think that your pain is being treated well, please tell your nurse or doctor. He or she will talk with you about your pain and your pain management needs.
Using a number scale (zero to 10) to rate your pain will help the health care team members know how severe your pain is and help them make decisions about how to treat it.
Your role in managing pain
Since you are the only one who knows where and how severe your pain is, you have an important part in managing your pain.
If you have pain, tell your nurse or doctor.
All of the following information will help your doctor(s) prescribe the right medicine and therapy for your pain, and avoid serious complications (side effects).
Tell your nurse or doctor:
- where you feel pain and how much pain you have (use words to describe how the pain feels)
- what makes your pain better or worse
- what methods of pain control have worked or have not worked well in the past
- if you take pain medicines on a regular basis
- if you have allergies or reactions to pain medicine(s)
- your goals for managing your pain
- what vitamins, herbal and natural products you are taking
- if you smoke
- if you drink more than two alcoholic drinks each day
- if you take illegal (street) drugs
- if you are in a methadone maintenance program.
Treatments for pain
Managing your pain is more than taking prescription (opioid) pain medicine. There are many different types of treatments for pain including:
- physical therapy
- heat or cold
- complementary therapies: music, guided imagery, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, massage therapy
- psychological therapies
- nerve blocks
- transcutaneous electrical stimulation.
Pain medicine side effects
All medicines have some side effects, but not everyone gets them. When side effects occur, it is usually within a few hours after taking the medicine. Most side effects can be managed and go away in time. Tell your doctor or nurse right away if you have:
- itching and/or rash
- nausea and vomiting
- slowed breathing
Ways to give pain medicine
There are many ways to give medicine for pain. Your doctor will help you decide which way might be best for you:
- tablets or pills
- intravenous (into a vein)
- patient controlled analgesia (PCA) pump
- transdermal (through the skin)
- intrathecal/epidural spinal infusion or injections.
Pain control can help you
The right pain control can help:
- you be more comfortable
- you get back to your normal routine
- promote healing.
Take pain medicine when pain first begins. If you know your pain may get worse with activity, take your pain medicine before the activity. Don't wait for pain to get worse before taking medicine. Tablets or pills may take up to 30 minutes to begin working.
Before you go home
Your doctor or health care team will give you directions for managing your pain at home. Be sure to have written instructions with a health care provider’s name/number who will manage your pain after you go home.
It is important you follow your doctor's directions for taking pain medicine. If you need help, ask your doctor or pharmacist.
If you have concerns or side effects from pain medicine, call the doctor who prescribed the medicine, or call your regular doctor.
Current medicine list (requires Adobe Reader)
Patient care plan for knee replacement surgery
Total knee replacement
Source: Allina Patient Education, Total Knee Replacement, third edition, ortho-ahc-90140
First published: 10/01/2000
Last updated: 12/01/2006
Reviewed by: Allina Patient Education experts