Orthopedic Surgery

Patients who have undergone any sort of orthopedic surgery are expected to have acute pain afterward. There are both preemptive and reactive pain relief options for these patients. Learning more about these options is important for those who are scheduled to have orthopedic surgery of any kind.

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Knee surgery, Orthopedic Operation - two surgeons performing a knee surgery on a patient


Orthopedic surgery is designed to treat disorders associated with the musculoskeletal system, including the bones, joints, and muscles as well as the tendons and ligaments. The most common forms of orthopedic surgery include:

  • Joint replacement surgery
  • Spinal fusion
  • Bone fusion
  • Soft tissue repair
  • Bone fixation or “setting”
  • Osteotomy

Each of these surgeries presents its own unique set of challenges for patients and their healthcare providers, and the pain experienced after the surgery can vary from one patient to the next.


The most common approaches include:

  • Regional anesthesia: Regional anesthesia, often known as a “nerve block,” is an exceptional way to manage pain immediately following surgery.
  • NSAIDs: NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can help to reduce the swelling that occurs after surgery and provides a great deal of pain relief when used in conjunction with other therapies.
  • Narcotic pain medications: Parenteral narcotics, or on-demand narcotics, continues to be one of the most common forms of pain management immediately following surgery. During recovery, patients can access “pain pumps” that deliver controlled doses of strong medications on demand, and later, they can fill prescriptions for medications that they take at home as needed.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapy started immediately after surgery can improve healing and help patients avoid further injuries. This is one of the best and most effective ways to relieve not only acute postsurgical pain, but also long-term pain that often comes with a slow healing process.

The pain management offered to individual patients depends greatly on their individual circumstances, and in some cases, the surgery itself is meant to relieve patients’ pain. Things like joint replacement and spinal surgery can reduce pain significantly depending on the severity of the patients’ conditions or injuries. Postoperative pain can be managed in various ways, as well.


The treatment of pain following orthopedic surgery is a critical part of any anesthetic plan. There are several approaches available and these vary based on everything from individual patient needs and expectations to finding the right balance between pain management and healing times. In recent years, researchers have made great strides in the treatment of postoperative pain, including the development of preemptive analgesia, which has proven effective in many cases as it can lessen patients’ reliance on strong pain medications as well as reduce the length of time they must undergo physical rehabilitation and therapy.

Though all of the various pain management options have their uses, most surgeons and healthcare providers agree that a mix of medications and physical therapy is by far the best way to maximize both pain relief and recovery rates, especially since narcotic pain medications like opioids have such a high potential for dependence.

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