Does weight loss surgery hurt?
Bariatric surgery is major surgery and, to varying degrees, it is normal to experience a range of symptoms. These include fatigue, nausea, vomiting, sleeplessness, surgical pain, weakness, light-headedness, gas pain and emotional ups and downs in the early days and weeks after surgery.
However, you can rest assured that your comfort is of the utmost importance to the surgical staff responsible for your care. So, although it is normal to experience some discomfort after surgery, keeping your pain under control is necessary for recovery and everything is done to facilitate this.
Generally, if you are feeling pain after surgery, you will be able to push a button on a cord to administer pain medication yourself. This is called ‘patient controlled analgesia’. The alternative is that the pain relief is administered to you by your care staff on a regular basis. As soon as you are able to tolerate fluids, your medical team will also add oral pain medication.
You should be aware that you are not bothering staff if you ask for pain medicine, so do not be afraid to tell them! The sooner you are more comfortable, able to walk, breathe deeply and cough, the sooner you will be on the road to complete recovery.
It helps to describe any pain you are experiencing to doctors and nurses on a scale – with say 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst possible; or from none to mild, moderate or severe. It also helps to plan ahead, so if you are comfortable lying down, you may still need pain medication to get up and walk around so request it if that is the case.
Likewise keep ahead of the pain, don’t wait for the pain to be at its worst before you push the button or make a request. Pain medication works best when used to prevent pain, so make sure you get it early and get it working fast. It should also be noted that the chances of becoming addicted to pain medicine is very low when it is used for a specific medical purpose, such as surgery.
The good news is that many patients sail through their surgery with little or minimum pain. Some do feel a little at their incision site/s or from the position their body was in during surgery. Some patients also experience neck and shoulder pain after laparoscopic bariatric surgery and gas pain from checking that internal closures are secure and non-leaking. All can be managed.
Following the advice of your team to change position, get on your feet, gradually breathe deeper, then exercise your feet and legs, which can make all the difference to your recovery and will certainly help to shorten your hospital stay.
Do however plan your recovery at home too. Think about your living environment and how you will manage after surgery. Are there many steps in your home? Is your bedroom upstairs? How accessible is the bathroom? Tell the bariatric staff in advance about this and they can help you to make a home plan with your specific needs in mind. You might also want to enlist help from family or friends for your first few days at home.
Remember too, to keep in touch with your team and to attend all follow-up appointments that have been scheduled as part of your recovery. Also keep your primary care doctor informed of your progress and be sure to contact him or her with any medical concerns as well.
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