The aftermath of surgery can be a painful experience. Even if your recovery starts well, pain can appear further down the line and turn into a long-term issue. And chronic pain is more widespread than you might expect, too.
According to results from studies by the British Medical Journal, the prevalence of chronic pain amongst UK adults ranges from 35% to just over 51%. With so many people suffering, it’s crucial to understand the best ways to treat and manage chronic pain.
Whether you’re expecting surgery soon or supporting someone through their recovery, it’s always worth knowing some personal and practical advice to help cope with chronic pain.
What causes pain after surgery?
No matter the procedure, you’ll always experience some pain after surgery.
As soon as you come round (wake up) from the operation, make sure you let your nurse know about your pain. They can decide how much medication you need – and what type – to help you start feeling better over the next few days.
However, prolonged pain after surgery is also possible. It can be caused by slow healing, possible infection, or complications with your immune response. Not resting enough can make the pain worse. If you’ve had an invasive surgery, you’ll experience pain while the wound heals too.
Why does chronic pain sometimes get worse?
Unfortunately, there are some instances where chronic pain persists or gets worse. In many cases, the reasons for this are beyond the control of the patient or any of the medical professionals involved with the procedure.
However, it’s also possible that chronic pain could be caused by mistakes during the procedure – or, in even rarer cases, the wrong type of procedure being carried out.
Either situation is an example of what’s known as a Never Event amongst health professionals. Yet between April 2022 and March 2023, the NHS identified at least 384 serious incidents meeting the definition.
What to do if chronic pain won’t go away
If chronic pain is getting worse for reasons relating to your existing health condition, the best thing you can do is consult the hospital or practice that treated you. Speaking directly to the professionals who treated you will direct you to personalised advice and tailored prescriptions or recommendations.
However, if you’re certain that the pain you’re experiencing relates to a mistake made by the surgeon or doctors, you might need to take matters into your own hands. If the pain persists and starts to affect your daily life, consulting medical negligence solicitors could help you to secure the compensation you deserve.
How to cope with pain after surgery: Practical advice
The best ways to manage pain after surgery will depend on the type of procedure you’ve had. It’s likely that you’ll already be on some pain medication. A few non-drug techniques to help you manage the pain include:
- Simple relaxation techniques: From deep breathing exercises to meditation and ambient music, controlling your body in a calm mental state can reduce pain.
- Supporting your wound: Make sure to take extra care around the site of your wound when moving around, coughing, laughing, and deep breathing.
- Massages: Gentle massage therapy helps to release tension, improve blood flow to the healing areas, and help you to feel more relaxed.
Chronic pain can feel debilitating. If you’re taking longer to heal than you expected, try to stay patient and make sure that you rest whenever possible. But if the pain wasn’t your fault, it’s important to seek advice and support as soon as possible.