Not taking pain meds post-surgery so unable to exercise
Something that often concerns me as a physiotherapist is when people come in for treatment after an operation in a lot of pain because they’re not taking their medication properly. Nobody likes taking a lot of pills especially strong painkillers. People worry about side effects and that they might be addictive. There is solid scientific evidence however, to show that it is appropriate and necessary to take pain medication as prescribed after an operation. Blocking the worst of the post-operative pain in the short term means you are less likely to have on-going pain long term. However, trying to “work through the pain” has shown to only increase the likelihood of chronic pain.
Pain is a normal response to trauma, a natural part of the inflammatory reaction, which is there to make you rest and heal. But pain acts as an automatic cut-out switch for muscle action and if you don’t use muscles they start to weaken within 24 hours. Healing also involves formation of swelling and scar tissue which causes stiffness in body tissues like skin, muscles and joints and gets tougher the longer it’s left immobile.
Pain increases when we’re tired, stressed or worried, which ironically interferes with sleep making us more tired and worried! It’s easy to get locked into a vicious cycle which is then difficult for even strong painkillers to help.
Movement or exercise helps the circulation and swelling, joint mobility and muscle strength, all of which will eventually ease away the pain. In order to move and heal you will need to take pain medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor from the time of your operation whether you feel you need it or not. If you wait until you feel you need pain relief it will be much less effective. It’s also helpful to co-ordinate your exercises with your medication so that you can use that window of opportunity to maximize your exercises and move forward with your rehabilitation.
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