Post provided by Barbara Bergin, MD
So I talked about tapering off pain pills as you feel your need diminish. But what are some other things you can do to decrease your need to take pain pills?
Don’t forget R.I.C.E.: rest, ice, compression and elevation. You’ve used that to help with pain after an injury. Well it works for post-operative pain as well.
Rest: We live in a busy world. We’re always wanting to get somewhere. We’ve got to go, go, go. When I was in college I had a job as a ward clerk in one of the big hospitals in Houston. People stayed in the hospital for weeks after an operation, which nowadays is done as an outpatient case. We don’t have the luxury of trained nurses waiting on us day and night for two weeks after our operation. Most of my patients can’t wait to get back to work, back to play and back to their routines. No one wants to rest. There’s nothing like rest to help us recover from an operation; whether that be resting our whole body or just resting the part on which we had surgery. But you need rest. It’s a crazy concept to take pain pills in order to return to work or to play golf. Stay home a little longer. REST!
Ice: Ice helps slow down the bleeding from the little capillaries in the wound/incision. Bleeding causes swelling and swelling causes pain. Apply ice, lots of ice. You really can’t use too much ice. Just be sure not to let ice bags rest directly on your skin.
Compression: This also helps to control swelling. Applying an ace bandage or thick dressings, when appropriate, helps to control swelling and therefore pain.
Elevation: Elevate the injured extremity as soon and as much as possible. When you allow an injured limb or an extremity which has just had surgery to hang down, it begins to swell. Once that swelling gets out of control, it is really hard to reverse. The more you can elevate the extremity from the get-go, the better.
Many of my patients manage all their pain with R.I.C.E. They might take their pain pills for only a day or two. Think R.I.C.E. instead of pain pill.