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5 Tips to Help Manage Pain After Surgery

You just had orthopedic surgery and are having a harder time adjusting to post-surgery life than expected. Don’t panic. At Stevens Point Orthopedics’ Physical Therapy, we understand where you’re coming from.

Every week we hear comments like, “Is it supposed to hurt this far out from surgery?” or “I thought I would be further along.” You’re far enough out of surgery to get back to some of the things you want to do, but not far enough along to do them all.

You might be starting to think that it will never get better, or maybe you’re even wishing that you’d never had surgery in the first place. You’re stuck in the middle, and that can be frustrating.

Most patients go through this rough patch. Don’t be discouraged. Everyone has their doubts at some point.

Actually, there are several things you can do to get back on track. Here’s a short list of things you can do to get to the next level of recovery:

Be disciplined with your sleep

An increasing amount of research has shown that poor sleep quality is closely associated with pain intensity and persistence (it’s true—Google it). So hold off napping in the afternoon, turn off the TV before and during bedtime, cut out or cut back stimulants including nicotine and caffeine, and wake up at the same time every day to help reset your circadian rhythm.

If you’ve had a sleep disorder prior to your surgery, contact your primary provider to discuss your options.

Re-dedicate yourself to PT

It’s easy to get lazy with physical therapy exercises or skip them entirely—especially when you have pain.

Many people think they get enough “exercise” from their normal daily activities. However, daily life isn’t a good substitute for exercise. Just because you’re using the surgically repaired limb doesn’t mean you’re doing quality rehabilitation.

Your physical therapist gave you exercises that are designed to work on YOUR specific problem without overloading the repaired tissues. It can be hard to exercise when you have pain, but don’t give up!


Studies show that meditation, deep breathing, and mindfulness help manage persistent pains – so do something calming or enjoyable for yourself. This can boost pain-relieving neurotransmitters and calm overactive pain-conducting nerves.

Keep your expectations in check

Remember that just because you’re done with crutches or a sling doesn’t mean you are fully healed. You have to train for the things you want to do or you’ll end up hitting a wall of pain and limitation.

You have to literally walk before you can run. This is where physical therapy comes in. Our primary goal is to get you back to doing the things you love.

Stay positive

Don’t let your doubts or fears rule your recovery. Research shows that patients actually have more pain when they’re afraid to move, focus too much on pain, or catastrophize their situation.

You’re truly as good as you believe you are. Stay focused on your goals and keep forging ahead — you can do this!

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