Managing Your Pain

The information in this section is made available through the generous support of Dr. Grant Stevens.

After our surgeries we can all expect to feel some discomfort and/or pain.  The Pain Scale, used by many hospitals, is a way for the doctors and nurses to help keep your pain in check and to help keep you as comfortable as possible.  

They will ask you, usually in the recovery room, what your pain level is and unless you're familiar with it, you may not know what they are talking about.  Usually before surgery they will explain it to you, but when you're getting ready to be wheeled into surgery, learning something new isn't always high on your list of things to do.  

One of our members, Diana, who also happens to be an RN, was kind enough to put the Pain Scale into simple and easy-to-understand terms for us. She also had some wonderful tips to share with all of us about pain medication and how to better manage your pain.

The Pain Scale:
0 - no pain
1 - slight pain - maybe if you bump it
2 - some noticeable pain - dull ache, able to sleep through it
3 - beginning to be uncomfortable, even at rest
4 - uncomfortable pain - sharp
5 - definitely hurts - sweating, cant sleep, focused on the pain
6 - sharp shooting pain, hard to sit still, profuse sweating, flushed
7 - agitation, pacing, still able to converse
8 - answers only with yes/no,
9 - frantic movement, answers few if any questions
10 - writhing agony, oblivious to any external events, incoherent

Tips to manage your pain:

In the hospital and after you get home, always stay on a schedule when taking your pain medication.  It keeps the pain in check.  Pain will take away the body's ability to heal itself quickly.  So, even if you don't hurt too badly, take your pill every "x" hours as prescribed by your doctor.  If you wait until your pain is at a "5" on the Pain Scale then it's going to take you longer and more medication to get you down to a "1 or 2," which should be a more bearable region.  So don't react to the pain...PRE-MEDICATE!  So many people under-medicate because of the fear of getting hooked on drugs. Getting hooked on pain medication during the short amount of time that someone has stitches, drains, and bruised breasts is very unlikely. Only in a pre-existing condition would this be a concern.

Many patients complain of nausea after taking Vicodin, Percocet, Percodan, Codeine, Darvocet, etc.  The trick is to EAT something prior to taking the medication.  Eating may be the last thing you want, but the nausea from taking the medication on an empty stomach can be very frightening and bothersome, and you don't want to be retching with fresh stitches and being newly post-op.  Good things to eat are graham crackers, bananas, milk, and bread.  It doesn't have to be a huge amount, but enough to coat your stomach.  

You should also be aware that pain medications can sometimes cause you to be constipated.  To manage this better, eat bulky foods like vegetables, bran cereal, and fruit, and you can ask your doctor what over-the-counter laxative he/she recommends.

As with ANY surgery, you will experience some pain and discomfort, and everyone has a different pain tolerance.  The most important thing is to be aware of your pain and manage it so you're able to relax and go through the healing process as comfortably as possible.

The Pain Scale Diagram