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

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

Ask your doctor to help create a pain management plan customized for you or your child. The plan will consider the type of surgery, area of the body, tolerance for pain, tolerance for pain medications, overall health, and how pain may affect recovery. Be sure to discuss your preferences and options with your doctor prior to your surgery.

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

TARGETEDLocal anesthetic (eg, lidocaine) EXPAREL, a long-acting local anestheticUnlike 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.

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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