Pain Management

Learn how we help manage your pain and keep you comfortable after spine surgery at El Camino Health. 

We’ll work with you to minimize your discomfort and check in with you frequently to determine how you’re doing. We’ll take your vital signs, assess your pain, and evaluate your ability to move your arms and legs.

Immediately following surgery, you’ll receive pain medication through intravenous (IV) therapy — the quickest, most effective method. Your IV will be started before your surgery, and your nurse will remove it before you leave the hospital.

Patient-Controlled Analgesia

In many instances, your doctor will prescribe patient-controlled analgesia (PCA), a device that allows you to control the level of pain medication. PCA is usually the initial method for controlling pain after surgery. Your doctor will prescribe the exact amount per dose, including a time-delay between doses plus a maximum dose per hour. To receive pain medication, you simply press the button on the handheld device. Your care team will show you how to use the PCA.

Keep in mind that you’re responsible for pushing the PCA medication-delivery button as needed — not your caregivers or family. This helps prevent complications and keeps your pain at a manageable level.

Communication and Pain Management

It's important to tell your nurses about your pain, including its intensity and what the pain feels like. Our goal is to keep your pain levels in the mild range and to avoid letting the pain become severe. Managing pain will allow you to be more mobile, use fewer medications overall, and experience a smoother, faster recovery.

Spine procedures can result in different kinds of pain. It's not unusual to experience spasms along with surgical discomfort. That's why it's important to be specific when describing the type and level of pain. Use adjectives such as cramping, tight, sharp, shooting, throbbing and aching, or whatever best describes what you're feeling. When you’re specific about the type of pain you’re experiencing, it helps your care team manage your pain.

Oral Pain Medications

Once the PCA or your IV medications are stopped, your doctor will prescribe oral pain medications. Nurses will assess your pain and offer your medication as it's prescribed. Be sure to ask questions — it's important that you understand the medications you're taking, and how to take them in the hospital and at home.

Your surgeon will give you a prescription for pain medications to take at home, and your care team will give you instructions for taking your medications.

Other Pain-Management Techniques

In addition to pain medications, your care team uses other techniques to make you more comfortable, including:

  • Walking and moving. Your nurse and your physical therapist will encourage you to get up a few times each day to maintain good circulation and promote healing.
  • Repositioning in your bed. Your nurse will help you readjust your position frequently as needed to make you more comfortable and relieve any stress on your spine.
  • Cold therapy. This treatment can be used to help manage pain and reduce swelling around the surgical incision. Your surgeon will determine whether it's an appropriate therapy for you.