Pain control. That’s so much easier to talk about than it is to actually do. But aside from doing the last thing you should do which is taking a bunch of addictive drugs – try these things first.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is one of the most important things you can do to support healing and reduce pain. Adequate sleep improves your ability to cope with pain, speeds healing, and can actually reduce pain. Unfortunately, many patients experience insomnia following surgery. The trick is to reduce your pain enough to sleep well, which may require medication, proper positioning, calming music or anything else that may help you relax. You can try melatonin or magnesium – read more about certain supplements here.
I’m a bit embarrassed to say what helped me. To get to sleep I had to watch rom-coms – stupid romance comedy movies that I almost never watch, except that in doing that I discovered a few good ones. I slept with the light on – it just made me feel better. Finally, I watched Frasier over and over. I knew all the lines and they still made me laugh and that’s what I needed to calm myself to go to sleep.
I tried various melatonin supplements and they didn’t seem to work for me. What did work for me was magnesium. I would take a magnesium supplement along with my vitamins at dinner and then before bed I used Calm cream. I would rub a little bit on the bottom of my feet (magnesium is also good for foot and leg cramps), and a little on my broken arm (after the wound has healed). Don’t overuse it and check with your doctor before doing so as magnesium, and many supplements can interfere with other medications you may be taking.
Sitting or lying in one place for too long can lead to more pain. Getting up and walking every hour or two during the day helps keep you from getting stiff and has the added benefit of decreasing the risk of developing blood clots after your procedure. If your pain is so severe that you are unable to complete simple tasks such as standing and walking, you should consult your doctor.
That always sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Stress is the enemy of good pain control (and everything else too). An increase in stress can increase pain. Try to avoid situations including people who tend to increase your stress level in the early days and weeks (or longer) of your recovery. Try stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing and relaxation exercises.
Use Pain Drugs Only When Necessary
In the days immediately following your surgery, take your pain medication as prescribed by your doctor for only as long and as often as you need them. If you are okay without it, don’t take it. As your pain improves, you can extend the time between doses until you are able to quit using them altogether.
Check with your doctor before taking over the counter drugs like aspirin or other NSAIDS as some can interfere with healing or conflict with other medications.
Opioids are often critical for post-surgical pain management, but their side effects are significant, including, nausea, vomiting, constipation, urinary retention, drowsiness, impaired thinking skills and poor respiratory function, and addiction. Depending on your metabolism, it can only take a few weeks to become dependent on opioids. The use of opioids after surgery is intended as a short-term strategy to relieve pain. Opioids should be used at the smallest dose effective for the shortest possible time.
Pain after arm surgery should be minimal after a week or two. Check with your doctor if it’s longer than that or you have increased pain, numbness, loss of feeling, fever, chills, or there is an increase in redness or swelling.