Managing post-surgical pain in addiction recovery can be a challenge.

Finally breaking free from the grip of addiction may have been difficult, but the rewards of living life in recovery are virtually endless. Recovery from addiction requires total abstinence from drugs and alcohol, but are there any exceptions? If you have to have major surgery, how do you deal with severe post-surgical pain and discomfort after your procedure?

The Dangers of Having Surgery While in Recovery

While no one is expected to be a martyr and forgo healing medical care, it is essential that anyone in recovery understand the risks associated with pain management in addiction recovery. In fact, one recent study found that millions of Americans stumbled into drug addiction as they recovered from a common surgery. Still, others got their hands on the billions of unused pain pills that are doled out each year for post-surgical care.

It would be a shame to break free from addiction and then end up right back in that terrible place because of a standard medical procedure. Whether you need to have a prescription painkiller prescribed or not, there are ways that you can prevent substance abuse from taking charge of your life once again.

How to Handle Post-Surgical Pain in Addiction Recovery

Assuming you have to have a major surgical procedure that will cause you pain afterward, you do not have to turn down prescription painkillers if both you and your physician feel that they are necessary. However, opioids should only be taken for a short period and in the event of extreme pain.

The most important thing you can do is to be completely honest with your doctor about your history with substance abuse and discuss your options. If you are prescribed opioids, a common method for controlling their use is to have a loved one hold onto them and give them to you when it is time for them to be dispensed.

If you need a refill, agree with your physician that you will not get one without having a face-to-face consultation to discuss your pain. In many cases, post-surgical pain dissipates over a few days, and you can quickly taper off of powerful narcotics to an over-the-counter solution. You may be able to avoid opioid painkillers completely with an alternative method for treating post-surgical pain.

Non-Opioid Options for Pain Management in Addiction Recovery

Opioid painkillers may not be necessary in every circumstance to treat pain after surgery. Medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Motrin), and naproxen (Aleve) can often effectively manage soreness and pain. These are non-addictive over-the-counter medicines that are excellent solutions for the short-term management of pain and discomfort.

There are also other ways to treat pain that do not involve addictive drugs. A study recently published in JAMA examines the most commonly used non-pharmaceutical treatments for pain after total knee replacement surgery. Among them are acupuncture, electrotherapy, cold and heat, and continuous passive motion (CPM). While some worked better than others on post-operative pain, there is evidence that methods such as acupuncture and electrotherapy have been helpful in reducing the use of opioids after surgery.

Having surgery after beginning your journey in recovery can be scary, but it doesn’t have to lead to relapse. Even if you do have a setback or are still struggling with substance abuse, there is qualified addiction treatment help available. Contact The Recovery Village now to speak with one of our addiction specialists about an addiction treatment program that will fit your needs.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.