Pain Relief After Surgery

This page will provide you with information about pain relief after surgery. For further details, please speak to your consultant.

Basics on pain relief

Operations usually result in some pain for the patient once they have been completed. Maintaining some level of pain control after an operation can help to speed up the recovery process and ensure individuals can return home as quickly as possible. Good pain control can minimise the risk of heart attacks, blood clots and chest infections; maintaining regular physical activity can also help to speed up the recovery process.

Types of pain relief

Simple painkillers

These painkillers include: paracetamol, ibuprofen and codeine (anti-inflammatories), and tramadol. They can be used by themselves or with other painkillers. They may not completely remove the pain experienced by a patient, but when used can reduce the dependency of the patient on other, stronger forms of painkillers.

Morphine and similar painkillers

These painkillers include: morphine, diamorphine, oxycodone and pethidine. They are used for more severe forms of pain.

They can be delivered either intravenously via a drip, orally or via an injection.

For intravenous delivery, patient-controlled analgesia (PCA) is common – this is where a patient has a pump containing the painkillers connected to a drip inserted into a vein. They are given a button to press which releases a small dose of the painkillers as and when the patient requires.

For oral delivery of the painkillers, a patient usually needs to be able to eat and drink as normal.

For injection of the painkillers, the patient will receive the painkillers via a needle either directly into the muscle or under the skin.

Epidural anaesthetic

An epidural procedure involves the insertion of a fine catheter into the epidural space by the spinal cord, which delivers the painkillers. This is an area that most nerves pass through, so when local anaesthetics and other painkillers are injected into this space numerous nerves are numbed, resulting in pain relief. This type of pain relief can sometimes be injected continuously (infusion), the dose of which will be altered by the healthcare team. Patients are sometimes also given a button for them to administer their dosage with a small, safe amount when needed.

Peripheral nerve blocks

These give pain relief to patients who have had either an arm or leg operation. They work by temporarily numbing the nerves in either the arm or leg via an injection of either anaesthetic or other painkillers near to the major arm or leg nerves.

Risks and complications

Any risks or complications will be discussed in advance of your treatment with your expert consultant.


It is very common to experience some form of pain after an operation. The relative safety and effectiveness of painkillers mean that patients can easily combat this pain and experience relief.


EIDO Healthcare Limited – This treatment information is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by Aspen Healthcare.

The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.