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Pain After Surgery

Pain after surgery is a common normal and expected experience in modern medicine. It usually starts in the first few weeks after surgery. Symptoms of pain after surgery can last between one hour and 15 hours a day and can vary between 5 days and a month. Swelling and incision pain can feel worse two or three days after the surgery. The operation itself will determine the type of pain, because painful symptoms are related to the distribution of nerves in the area of the incision.

The pain people often experience after the surgery is more about nerve pain or “neuropathic pain” which can arise from nerve injury. Pain can also be caused by the damage done to tissue by the incision, the procedure itself, the closing of the wound and any force that is applied during the procedure. Typical symptoms of neuropathic pain include stabbing, tingling, numbness, altered sensations and problems with sensitivity. Avoiding nerve damage during an operation can be difficult, it is not always possible, especially during cancer surgery when removing a tumor.

Chronic pain is pain that suddenly increases, becomes unmanageable and persists for more than three post-surgical pain”. It is difficult to know when the pain becomes “chronic pain” after surgery, especially if you are getting treated for a painful condition. Sometimes it is hard to trace the pain and distinguish if it is continuation of the old pain, or if it is new pain that is related to the surgery

Cause of Pain

All pain is not the same. There are different causes of pain. The most common syndromes of pain after surgery are:

  • Nociceptive pain
  • Superficial and deep Somatic pain
  • Neuropathic pain
  • Visceral pain
  • Phantom limb pain
  • Referred Pain

The syndromes of pain listed above are common symptoms of pain after a surgery. Some of the surgeries that could cause the pain are:

  • Back surgery
  • Amputation surgery
  • Chest surgery
  • Neck surgery
  • Knee replacement/surgery
  • Hernia surgery


How is the pain treated?

Your doctor will provide treatment depending on the characteristics of the persistent pain and the reason for the pain developing. Whoever suffers from pain following the same type of surgery will not have the same type of pain. Your doctor could recommend appropriate pain medication after the surgery to relieve painful symptoms. However, this does not mean you will not have pain, it means your pain will be more tolerable. The pain should slowly improve each day after surgery. Seek medical care if your prescribed pain medication fails to relieve symptoms. This can be a sign of a change in your recovery.

Moreover, Interventional pain management such as spinal cord stimulation, peripheral nerve stimulation and pulsed radiofrequency provide pain relief for patients suffering with persistent or chronic pain after surgery.


The contents contained within this page are not a substitute for health professionals’ advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We advise that you seek advice from a qualified healthcare practitioner. We fully disclose that any surgical or invasive procedures come with risks.

For more details on how to relieve or treat chronic pain, you can reach out to one of our pain specialists at any of our pain care clinic locations. We establish a caring relationship and provide patients with pain relief when needed the most.