You have a say in how your pain is treated after surgery.

Everyone experiences pain differently. Have a discussion with your doctor before the procedure to make a pain management plan that meets your needs.

  • Women experience pain differently than men—what could this mean for you?
  • Side effects from some pain medication could keep you off your feet longer than you expect.
  • Worried about your family having access to opioids/narcotics? Drug exposure often starts at home.
  • Are you an oncology patient? Avoiding opioids/narcotics may benefit your recovery.

Many people rely on opioids after surgery.
But opioids aren’t for everyone.

  • Opioids can cause nausea, vomiting, and constipation
  • Opioids can make you feel drowsy or confused
  • Over 50 million people have reported using prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least once
  • 1 in 15 patients who took an opioid after surgery became a long-term user
    • Some people develop a tolerance and need higher doses over time



Oxycodone (eg, OxyContin®, Percocet®)

Hydrocodone (eg, Vicodin®, Lortab®)

Hydromorphone (eg, Dilaudid®)

Merperidine (Demerol®)

Morphine (similar to heroin)




These attach to nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. There they block pain signals from reaching the brain. "Systemic" means they affect the whole body.

People may become dependent or addicted to opioids, even if they are only used for a short time.




Ibuprofen (eg, Advil®, Motrin®)

Naproxen (eg, Aleve®, Naprosyn®)

Acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol®, Q-Pap®)

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like Advil® and Aleve® reduce swelling, and acetaminophen works differently to manage mild to moderate pain.

These are systemic and affect the whole body, like opioids, but do not contain narcotics and are not addictive.

TARGETED Local anesthetic (eg, lidocaine) EXPAREL, a long-acting local anesthetic Unlike systemic medications, these work directly at the surgical site to numb the nerves that cause pain. They also do not contain narcotics and are not addictive.

All products, names, and brands are the property of their respective owners.

Harvard Health Publications:

7 questions to ask when you’re given a prescription for an opioid

It's important to talk about pain management with your doctor, before your procedure.

Use this helpful tool to put together talking points for your next appointment.

Create your discussion guide now