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Managing Post-Op Pain at Home: Medicines

Woman taking pills in kitchen.

Pain after an operation (post-op pain) is common and expected. These guidelines can help you stay as comfortable as possible.

Taking pain medicines

  • Take only the medicines that your healthcare provider tells you to take.

  • Take medicines on time. Don't take more than prescribed.

  • Take pain medicines with some food to prevent an upset stomach.

  • Don’t drink alcohol while using pain medicines.

  • Don't drive while taking opioid pain medicines. 

Types of pain medicines


  • Check with your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever in addition to your prescribed pain medicine.

  • Non-opioids include OTC acetaminophen and ibuprofen and some prescription pain relievers.

  • All relieve mild to moderate pain and some reduce swelling.

  • Possible side effects include stomach upset and bleeding. High doses may cause kidney or liver problems.


  • Opioids are only available by prescription.

  • Opioids ease moderate to severe pain.

  • Possible side effects include stomach upset, nausea, and itching.

  • Opioids may cause constipation. To help prevent this, eat high-fiber foods and drink plenty of water.

  • Your healthcare provider may recommend a stool softener.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider or seek medical attention right away if you notice any of these symptoms:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, or stomach cramps

  • Breathing problems or a fast heart rate

  • Feeling tired, sluggish, or dizzy

  • Skin rash

  • Pain that is not eased with the pain medicine

Online Medical Reviewer: Jonas DeMuro MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Wanda Taylor RN PhD
Date Last Reviewed: 9/1/2019
© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.