Pain is personal, no two people experience it the same way. Your doctors will develop a pain management plan based on your particular needs, which is why it’s important to discuss pain treatment options. There are many types of treatment plans — some with drugs and some without, and some pain treatments administered during surgery — that can be used together or separately to provide relief based on your specific needs, so discuss your choices with your medical team.
In addition to keeping you comfortable, good pain control can help your recovery, reduce the chance of complications and unwanted side effects from your medications, and prevent the pain from becoming chronic. So if your pain treatment doesn’t seem to be working, tell your doctors. Without your feedback, they can’t optimize your pain management plan.
Pain Management Should Be “Multimodal”
Multimodal pain management refers to the use of different types of treatments to alleviate your pain. A multimodal approach varies the types of pain medicines used, so your doctor can avoid exposing you to very high doses of any one medication, which can help reduce your chances of experiencing side effects.
While there are many different combinations of treatments that can go into a multimodal plan, the trend is to use non-opioid medications at the start of treatment to limit (or in some cases eliminate) your need for opioids, which may be associated with unwanted side effects that can impact the recovery process.
Doctors combine what they know about you (which is why discussions with your doctor are essential), their experience with patients like you who’ve undergone similar surgical procedures and medical guidelines to create the most appropriate surgical pain management plan for you.
Intravenous (IV) patient-controlled analgesia (PCA)
Patient-controlled epidural analgesia
Anesthetics such as lidocaine and bupivacaine eliminate pain by preventing nerves from transmitting the signals that carry the sensation of pain. The novocaine used by your dentist to numb your mouth before you have a tooth pulled or a filling put in works the same way.
Local and regional pain management
Electrical stimulation applied to the skin has also been used to manage pain at specific locations on the body. Some versions of this treatment stimulate areas near the skin; some stimulate deeper.
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)
“CAM” refers to treatments that may be used as a complement to or as an alternative in place of the more standard treatments discussed above.* CAM treatments include acupuncture, meditation, relaxation techniques, massage therapy, spinal manipulation, tai-chi, yoga, dietary supplements and other natural products.
CAM medicine is actively studied — the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is a National Institute of Health research center that performs and funds research that investigates the effectiveness of CAM methods.
As with any pain treatment, you’ll need to speak with your doctor to find out if CAM is right for you.