Skip to main content

Pain After Surgery – What to Expect

What kind of pain should I expect after surgery?

In part, this will depend on the type of surgery. Everyone is different and responds to surgery in a different way. There are some common issues about pain after surgery.

Common Pain Issues You May Encounter Post-Surgery

Day 1 After Surgery

Many patients will feel bad the day after surgery. Anesthesia is wearing off and patients are either in bed at home or in the hospital with their pain controlled by medications administered regularly by a nurse.

Day 2 After Surgery

By day 2, people are at home or may be on their way home, but they are still taking it easy with their pain controlled by pain medicine.

Day 3  After Surgery

On day 3 post operation, many people expect to feel better but are surprised to find that their pain and recovery may not be progressing as quickly as they anticipated.  The physiological reasons for this surprise may include:

  • The inflammatory response tends peak during this time and can lead to increased pain. Also, by day 3 many patients are trying to wean themselves off of pain medication and pain can escalate.  Once pain gets to a certain level, it is very hard to play catch up.
  • If patients are at home, they may try to do too much too soon, resulting in increased pain. It is good to move, but be careful how much and what kind of movement you choose to do after surgery.  It’s a good idea to go slow.
  • Patients may start reengaging the surgical area. For example, incisions made in the abdomen are engaged with standing, sitting, laying and even breathing. Also, though you can usually eat normal foods by day 3, pain medications can slow function of the GI tract. If they jump right into their regular diet, it may result in an increase in discomfort.

Be Realistic About Pain; Listen to Your Body

Pain expectations should be realistic. You will have pain. Depending on the procedure and the person, patients should feel a little better each day.  Be sure to take it easy, listen to your body and control your pain.

A slow, steady re-entry back into normal life should take at least a week.  If you push yourself too hard too soon, the repercussions might actually slow recovery and cause injury and/or additional pain.  And, as always, if your recovery is not progressing or you actually feel worse rather than better post-surgery, call your physician.

About Crystal Pressley, MD

Dr. Crystal Pressley is a general surgeon with WakeMed Physician Practices – General Surgery. Dr. Pressley specializes in general surgery, trauma and critical care. Learn more about Dr. Pressley and schedule an appointment today.