Having surgery is often only the first part of a long process of getting better. But while the surgery eliminates the immediate problem, it also creates injuries of its own that, as a patient, you need to manage. Thus, preparing for your recovery is essential.
Here’s what you need to know about post-surgical pain.
You May Experience Nociceptive Pain
Nociceptive might sound like technical jargon – and it is – but all it means is acute pain in your tissues as a direct result of surgery. Most people who undergo a procedure experience this type of discomfort. You can feel pain in your bones, skin, muscles, and organs.
Doctors like to differentiate between different types of nociceptive pain. Superficial somatic pain, for instance, refers to the type of pain you get after an injury. So, for example, if you graze your knee, you experience this kind of discomfort.
Deep or visceral somatic pain, however, comes from the tissues far beneath the skin – the muscles, bones, organs, and tendons. This kind of pain is common after cancer related surgery, especially if the operation requires making incisions deep into your abdomen.
You May Experience Referred Pain
Some people experience the phenomenon of referred pain after going through surgery. This discomfort occurs when the brain cannot identify the precise location of the pain. Surgeons, for instance, might have operated on your abdomen, but you feel pain in your spine or neck.
People with referred pain will often visit a chiropractor. Specialists in nerve and bone manipulation can help restore correct nerve signals to the brain. They also help to relieve discomfort after surgery and ensure that the body returns to balance.
Referred pain should resolve day by day after surgery as the body re-establishes proper nerve function. In the meantime, your doctor should provide you with the appropriate pain medication.
You May Experience Phantom Limb Pain
Phantom limb pain is perhaps one of the most unusual post-surgical pain experiences of them all. This occurs when the brain still detects pain in an amputated limb that is no longer there.
Researchers once considered phantom limb pain a psychological issue. Now, they have evidence that it begins in the nervous system. The body continues to believe that the limb is there, even if it isn’t.
Current approaches to dealing with phantom limb pain include medication and cognitive behavioral therapy.
You May Experience Neuropathic Pain
Neuropathic pain is a type of pain that results from damage to the nerve cells themselves. Usually, nerve cells generate pain when they think tissue is damaged. For instance, if you bruise a muscle, the nerves will send signals to your brain telling you that it hurts and you need to protect it. Nerve pain, however, can also result from cutting and damaging the nerves during surgery.
There are two kinds of nerve pain that you might experience. Peripheral neuropathic pain originates in the nerves of the arms and legs. You might feel burning, aching or tingling. Central neuropathic pain starts in the brain or spinal cord. This is rare and usually results from surgical errors.
The good news is that most people can overcome post-surgical pain quite quickly under proper medical supervision and a good recovery plan.