Skip to main content

How to manage your pain after hip replacement surgery

  • Types of pain

    Pain can last less than three to six months (acute), last a long time (chronic) or be severe and intense (breakthrough). Pain can come and go with injury, recovery 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 a member of your health care team. He or she will talk with you about your pain and your pain management needs.

    Pain scale

    Use the number scale (0 to 10) or the Wong-Baker FACES® Pain Rating Scale, both below, to rate your pain. This will help the health care team members know how severe your pain is and help them make decisions about how to treat it.

    Allina Health Pain Assessment Scale

    Wong-Baker Pain Rating Scale

    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 a member of your health care team.

    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 a member of your health care team:

    • 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

    Pain medicine isn't the only way to treat pain. Your nurse may suggest the following non-medicine ways to treat your pain.

    Non-medicine ways to treat pain

    • walking
    • back rub
    • emotional support
    • cold therapy
    • music
    • relaxation
    • rest
    • noise reduction
    • aromatherapy
    • massage
    • prayer/spiritual care
    • change in positions
    • change in temperature
    • change in lighting

    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 nurse right away if you have:

    • constipation
    • sleepiness
    • dizziness
    • itching and/or rash
    • nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting (throwing up)
    • slowed breathing
    • confusion

    Ways to give pain medicine

    There are many ways to give medicine for pain. Your health care team will help you decide which way might be best for you:

    • tablets or pills
    • intravenous (into a vein)
    • transdermal (through the skin)
    • injection

    When medicines are used correctly to manage pain, addiction rarely occurs. If you have concerns about this issue, please talk with a member of your health care team.

    Pain control can help you

    The right pain control can help:

    • you be more comfortable
    • you participate in therapies
    • 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 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.


    Some pain medicines require that a paper copy of the prescription be brought to the pharmacy to be filled. A member of your health care team will give this to you at discharge, if needed.

    It is important you follow any instructions you receive for taking pain medicine.

    If you have questions, or concerns, or side effects from pain medicine, call the doctor who prescribed the medicine, or call your primary care provider.

  • Videos

    Pain management after surgery

    These four videos review pain expectations, rating your pain, pain treatment options and home pain management.

    Video iconWatch all four modules.

    Peripheral nerve block: Pain control after surgery

    This 24-minute video explains what a peripheral nerve block is and how you can use it to control pain in the hospital and after you return home.

    Video iconWatch the full video or in two- to three-minute segments.

  • Important

    Having no pain while in the hospital is not realistic, but pain can be controlled. Your health care team will work closely with you to help manage your pain during your hospital stay and when you return home.

    You and your health care team will establish a "pain goal"—the amount of acceptable pain you can tolerate during your hospital stay.

    For most people, a pain goal of 3 or 4 out of 10 is an OK pain level that balances pain control with your ability to do physical therapy and daily activities.

    Pain medicine and addiction

    Some pain medicine is good but too much can be harmful. Your health care team will help you manage your pain safely. 


    Constipation is a common long-term side effect of taking pain medicine. Make sure to have some over-the-counter stool softeners or laxatives at home to take, if needed.