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Lingering Post-Surgical Pain: Is It All in Your Head?

Pain management is not always as straightforward as treating the surgical area

Surgery is performed to restore normal bodily function, remove diseased tissues or alleviate painful conditions. After surgery, it’s normal to experience post-surgical pain; in fact, it’s expected in almost all cases. When the incision and the damaged internal tissues have healed, the pain should go away. Unfortunately, it’s not always so simple. It’s estimated that between 10 and 50% of people who have surgery experience lingering or chronic pain long after their surgery sites are completely healed. Chronic pain is especially common in back surgery and other surgeries that involve extensive manipulation of nerve tissues. If you’re suffering from pain weeks or months after it should have been long gone, your surgeon may be baffled. Don’t worry. It’s not all in your head. It’s real, and help is available.

Why Am I Still in Pain?

Pain that persists after surgery may be either caused directly by the procedure or indirectly related to it. The pain may be described as vague discomfort, aching or sharp, stabbing pain. You may even experience a sensation of pins and needles near the site. The phenomenon of chronic post-surgical pain is poorly understood, but experts believe it’s due to hyper-stimulation of the nervous system that can be caused by peripheral nerve damage, chronic inflammation or the formation of scar tissue at the surgery site. Chronic post-surgical pain, like all types of persistent pain, can lead to reduced mobility, anxiety and depression. In severe cases, it can affect your relationships, your social life and even your ability to work and perform daily activities. Surgeons specialize in treating problems with a scalpel. When the surgery itself causes your misery, it’s time to turn to a pain specialist.

Treating Abnormal Post-Surgery Pain

Treating unexplained, chronic post-surgical pain can be tricky, but experienced pain doctors can offer a variety of effective treatment options. In mild cases, oral pain medications, relaxation techniques and physical therapy may alleviate all or most of your pain. More severe pain may respond to epidural pain control or alternative methods like radio-frequency therapy or IDET. In some cases, implantable pumps, spinal cord stimulation and comprehensive psychological support may be needed. If your post-surgical pain has not abated after your incision and tissues have healed, seek treatment as soon as possible to get the best results.

Advanced Pain Care Can Help Manage Chronic Post-Surgical Pain

At Advanced Pain Care, Dr. Malone and our pain management specialists help patients in Austin and Central Texas find relief from chronic pain, and live more active and productive lives. Since 2002, our compassionate, multidisciplinary approach and advanced techniques have improved the lives of people suffering from various forms of acute and chronic pain. If your pain is diminishing your quality of life, contact us today.