Home Remedy Treatments That Can Support Your PostOperative Pain
By Paul Le, M.D.
Most patients are going to experience some degree of postoperative pain. Of course, everyone’s pain threshold is different, and pain may be more prolonged depending on the surgery. However, postoperative pain management can be done from home and with remedies that can support them in getting back to a normal functioning level.
Remedies to consider directly after surgery
Consider alternating between heat and ice around the affected area after surgery. Heat can soothe and relieve the pain, and ice can help reduce swelling and inflammation. It is important to be careful of the incision site and not place direct contact on that area because it could irritate it.
Another anti-inflammatory remedy could be taking regular Epsom salt baths. The heat from the bath itself can be very soothing, and reduce pain. Patients can also change their diet as soon as they get home, so they ensure they are eating more anti-inflammatory foods, such as those that incorporate olive oil, turmeric, leafy greens, nuts, and fatty fish.
Depending on the surgery, they can take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and Aleve. They should check with their doctor before taking them because some surgeons do not want them taken immediately. They tend to prohibit bone growth and thin the patient’s blood. Depending on their surgery, this needs to be assessed by the surgeon or doctor; in order to determine if it is appropriate. As an alternative, Tylenol may be an effective pain reliever with limited contraindications.
Ingesting CBD oils may also be an effective treatment directly after surgery. However, the evidence that CBD works is still up for debate, and the data is anecdotal. Some patients say they see great results using CBD as it helps them remain calm and ease pain in their bodies. Some see little to no results at all. Use CBD with caution, given that all products are still highly unregulated and the quality is not maintained across all brands. Patients have to go to a place they trust because some CBD products include THC, which may negatively impact drug testing for work.
The role of mobility as a remedy
Incorporating some physical exercises and stretches can help reduce pain and stiffness after surgery, but it very much depends on the patient’s surgery. If they had surgery in the upper extremities, such as the neck or the back, they may be immobile for some time longer than if they had surgery in their lower extremities. If they had neck or back surgery, they will likely go home in a neck or back brace, or a soft collar, for which their mobility is quite restricted.
Some patients may bounce back quickly and can get out of bed and start incorporating mobility exercises. Others may find it harder to rebound. Eventually, they can do some stretches at home to reduce pain, especially when that pain has spread to other areas in the body when they start to build up mobility, exercise, and do deep stretches again, depending on the patient’s circumstances.
However, for all patients, surgeons will likely never recommend anyone become completely bedridden. At least some mobility is important for recovery; otherwise, patients could lose muscle mass and coordination and cause pain in other areas of their bodies.
Consider emotional and mental well-being remedies
The mind and emotions have an equal part to play in postoperative pain management as much as physical remedies do. The more calm the patient’s mind is, the less stress they carry in their body, reducing inflammation associated with their pain.
Self-hypnosis is a tool that can help control thoughts and reactions to a particular experience that a patient may be fixated on. It is similar to a meditative practice, yet instead of simply focusing on relaxing, they focus on a particular goal, such as overcoming pain. Then, they can use positive affirmations or thoughts in order to shift their perspective to a more positive one and fixate less on their pain.
Meditation is another effective tool to ease pain and become less focused on it. Mindfulness can help to bring patients into the present moment and focus on things they can control rather than things they cannot necessarily control, like having pain after surgery. There are a number of meditation techniques that can be effective, such as deep breathing, focusing on your heartbeat, or mindfulness exercises where the focus is on a particular area nearby, a color, a number, etc.
If home remedies aren’t effective, go see the doctor
If postsurgical pain management is not addressing the pain or the pain just seems to remain at the same level or worse, it may be time to consider speaking to a doctor. This is also necessary if patients are experiencing a change in their functionality or strength.
The last thing a patient should do is wait around while their pain prolongs and the area of the body potentially decompensates, and functionality cannot return to a normal state. Even if the patient is unsure if they should see their doctor, it is still best to see them so that whatever the situation may be, the doctor can reassess the area and tell them whether they need further pain treatment.
Paul H. Le, MD has been practicing pain medicine in Austin since 2010 and is excited to be part of Advanced Pain Care. He is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and Pain Management physician. Dr. Le graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in Zoology… View Profile