Most people will experience pain following a joint replacement surgery, and using prescription medication to treat pain is usually part of a successful recovery.
It is unlikely that opioids alone will be prescribed to treat pain following surgery. Most surgeons use a multimodal approach to pain management, which means they use a variety of methods to treat pain. This approach could include an opioid and 1 to 3 additional drugs, such as NSAIDs, Cox-2 inhibitors, and other non-opioid pain medication.1
The multimodal treatment approach also includes non-medication techniques that can be administered before, during and after surgery. However, this post will focus on the medications that might be prescribed to take when you return home.
Postoperative pain relief with medication
It is likely that you will leave the hospital with at least one prescription for pain relief. You can generally expect to receive a prescription that is dependent upon—
- Your medical history. This includes previous injuries, illnesses, as well other prescriptions that could have an effect on the type of medications you are prescribed.
- Your degree of pain. Although pain is expected after joint replacement, it will vary due to age, activity level, and the condition of the joint prior to surgery.
- Which extremity was operated on. For example, hip replacements tend to cause less postsurgical pain than knee replacements. Most hip replacement patients receive a 1 to 2 week prescription while knee replacement patients receive a 4 to 6 week prescription.
Your doctor will determine the type of medication as well as the dosage and number of pills you receive, however, if you are uncomfortable with their suggested prescription it is important to speak up. Another drug option that achieves the similar results with different or fewer side effects may be available.
- American Society of Anesthesiologists. Hip And Knee Replacement Patients Using Fewer Opioids To Manage Pain After Surgery.; 2017. Available at: https://www.asahq.org/about-asa/newsroom/news-releases/2017/10/hip-and-knee-replacement-patients-using-fewer-opioids-to-manage-pain-after-surgery. Accessed April 11, 2018.