How to manage your pain after surgery

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.

Your health care team's goal is to help you maintain a pain goal of 2 or 3 out of 10.

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.

Go to to watch a series of four short videos on pain. The topics are:

  • pain expectations
  • how to use the pain scale
  • how to treat pain in the hospital
  • how to mange pain at home

You can watch the videos as often as you like.

Pain scale

Using a number scale (0 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

After a hysterectomy, it is common to have some pain. Your nurse will monitor your pain level often and help you manage the 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

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 if you have:

  • constipation
  • sleepiness
  • dizziness
  • itching, rash or both
  • nausea (upset stomach) and vomiting (throwing up)
  • slowed breathing
  • trouble concentrating
  • forgetfulness
  • increased anxiety

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)
  • injection
  • intrathecal/epidural spinal infusion or injections

Pain control can help you

The right pain control can help you:

  • be more comfortable
  • get back to your normal routine
  • participate more completely in your exercises and therapy
  • heal

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.

Timing of when to take medicines is important. Talk to your nurse about how to time your pain medicines before therapy or activity.

What to remember when taking pain medicine

  • Some pain medicines (like Tylenol®) have acetaminophen. Taking more than 4,000 milligrams (4 grams) of acetaminophen in 24 hours may damage your liver. Acetaminophen is also found in some cough and cold medicines, too
  • Do not drink alcohol while taking prescription pain medicine.
  • Do not drive any motor vehicles while taking narcotics or pain medicines that make you sleepy.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet and drink six to eight large glasses of water each day. Eat lots of fresh fruits, raw vegetables and other foods high in fiber. This will help you avoid constipation. If you are constipated, talk with your doctor or pharmacist on what you can do.
  • Taking your pain medicine with a small amount of food may be helpful to control stomach upset.

Your pain should lessen every week. Take the prescription pain medicine as your doctor ordered to help ease your pain.

If you take several medicines, make sure your doctor and pharmacist knows what you are taking. Some medicines can be harmful when taken with others.

If you need a prescription pain medicine refilled close to the weekend, call your pharmacy several days ahead of time so you do not run out.

Anti-inflammatory medicines

During your recovery in the hospital, you may have been started on anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®). Anti-inflammatory medicines assist with healing by reducing swelling and pain.

You may be continuing an anti-inflammatory medicine after discharge from the hospital, please be aware that these medicines may cause stomach upset for some people. Take the medicine as directed on your prescription. Taking this medicine with food or milk may be helpful to control stomach upset. Call your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.

You may also continue to use other therapies to help manage your pain. These include relaxation techniques, listening to music or relaxation CDs, visualization or guided imagery or massage.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Preparing for Your Hysterectomy, gyn-ah-95582
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education experts
First Published: 04/25/2013
Last Reviewed: 11/30/2015