You’ve Had Surgery, But You’re Still in Pain. Now What?

It’s certainly reasonable to expect pain after a surgical procedure to lessen and eventually resolve as your body heals. Unfortunately, up to 50% of surgical patients experience chronic (long term) postsurgical pain that can last for months to years, according to research noted by the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

The pain management specialists at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona specialize in treating chronic pain issues like persistent postsurgical pain with highly effective, state-of-the-art therapies and procedures that successfully tackle pain and restore your quality of life.

Our team is proud of the reputation we’ve earned for providing superior care to residents in and around the Arizona communities of Tucson, Safford, and Benson. We’re happy to share information about the consequences of persistent postsurgical pain (PPOP) and how we can help.

What is persistent postoperative pain?

Unlike the acute pain expected to last for days to weeks after surgery, which naturally fades with healing, PPOP is defined as pain that:

  • Develops after an operation
  • Lasts for at least three months beyond the acute postsurgical healing phase
  • Is not due to other causes, such as an infection or cancer

The discomfort linked to chronic postsurgical pain occurs in locations other than where presurgical pain existed. PPOP following surgical repair of a hernia in the groin, for example, may cause pain down the thigh or in the testicles.

Pain related to PPOP may also have a different quality than what you experienced due to the condition being surgically treated. It’s often described as sharp, stabbing, or burning pain with areas of numbness or hypersensitivity in the affected areas. 

What causes persistent postoperative pain?

PPOP is likely related to nerve and other tissue damage sustained during surgery that is often unavoidable due to the nature of the injury, size of the tumor, and other characteristics of the disease or condition being treated.

Certain types of surgery can increase the risk of developing PPOP, including:

  • Limb amputation
  • Coronary artery bypass grafting
  • Thoracotomy
  • Breast surgery
  • Inguinal hernia repair
  • Cesarean section

Traditional “open” versus less invasive laparoscopic surgery also increase the risk of PPOP.

Other factors that may also play a role in PPOP include:

  • The amount of pain you experienced before and soon after surgery
  • Length of your operation, longer surgeries increase risk
  • History of anxiety or depression
  • History of chronic pain disorder, i.e., complex regional pain syndrome, fibromyalgia

Note that women are also more likely to experience PPOP than men, and it tends to affect younger individuals.

How do you treat PPOP?

The treatments we provide here at the Pain Institute of Arizona are customized to fit your needs and circumstances. Neuropathic pain, which is related to nerve damage, is complex and requires specialty care that often involves a multipronged treatment strategy.

For PPOP, your Pain Institute of Southern Arizona specialist may recommend oral medications and various therapies to manage your pain. Depending on the nerve(s) affected, nerve blocks, spinal cord stimulators, and other treatments that block pain signals from damaged nerves to your brain are also options. 

Don’t live with chronic pain. Schedule a visit at the Pain Institute of Southern Arizona today. We can help.