Having Pain After Elbow Surgery?
In the newest video in the series, “Elbow Surgery: A Patient’s Perspective“, we’re covering a topic everyone who has elbow surgery is likely going to experience during recovery… pain.
In this video, we cover:
- Pain ratings… and provide options for scales to use!
- The significance of describing pain using feeling words
- How YOU, as the patient, has the right (and ability) to speak up about your pain
- The Wong-Baker Faces Pain Rating Scale (https://wongbakerfaces.org/) More videos to come on this healing journey after elbow surgery.
I’m 5 years post ORIF after shattering my dominant elbow joint. After 6 months of post-op recovery and physical therapy, I was able to resume a lot of my normal activities including golfing. Unfortunately, my elbow has never been, and never will be the same. I lost the ability to fully flex and extend my elbow, but accepted that as the best possible outcome given the severity of my injury.
Last week, something abruptly changed inside my elbow. The residual pain that I had previously either ignored or put up with, has doubled in intensity. 24/7 pain now keeps me awake at night radiating up to my shoulder.. I can not bend my elbow past 90 degrees without shooting pain, and pins and needles in my wrist and hand are more frequent.
I’m on the schedule to see an elbow surgeon in a few weeks to discuss further treatment, including a possible elbow replacement. I’m a nurse too, so I have a good understanding of medical terms and treatments, but I’m still terrified. Not of the surgery itself, or possible complications, but of the current attitude of doctors that leans towards minimal prescribing of opiates for post-op pain control, particularly in Medicare aged patients like me.
Many of my active friends of the same age have had recent orthopedic surgeries. Almost all of them have complained about and suffered with inadequate post-op control of their pain, apparently based on the nationwide abuse of prescription medicines, and new guidelines and restrictions surrounding the prescribing of opiates. It’s a one and done prescription. Tramadol or Tylenol for everything else beyond the original opioid script.
My previous injury resulted in excruciating pain, a 20 on the 1-10 scale, and the use of very strong opiates for nearly two and a half months. Thankfully, my injury occurred before the overdose epidemic, and before the change in opiate prescription guidelines. My doctor gave me what I needed without questioning or judging me.
Fast forward to 2022. I can only imagine the additional pain I would have had to endure if my accident would have happened today.
How do I discuss my concerns about “painfully” inadequate pain control with a surgeon without being judged as a “drug seeker.” I’d love for Yoga (which I can hardly do) or deep breathing to work. But they don’t. My arm hurts like hell, and I dread the pain that I will be facing as much as the pain I feel now.
Hi there. So sorry to hear your elbow pain has returned, and so severely. Yes, I completely resonate with what you’re describing related to the surgeon’s care and management of pain medication (or lack thereof). I, too, had a very similar experience with a surgeon who made me feel like I was begging for pain medicine. Perhaps keeping a very specific, detailed pain log? And bringing that pain log to your appointment to share exactly how the pain felt, when it felt that way, and for how long. I believe that the more data we can provide to our healthcare providers the better. They seem to only be able to speak in numbers and quantitative data, rather than how an individual person is feeling and coping. Sending healing vibes and energy to you.