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 medicines on time. Do not take more than prescribed.

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

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

  • Don’t drink alcohol while using pain medicines.

  • Do not drive while taking opioid pain medicines. 

Types of pain medicines


  • Over-the-counter (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen) or prescription

  • 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

  • Check with your healthcare provider before taking over-the-counter pain medicines in addition to your prescribed pain medicine


  • Always a prescription

  • Relieve moderate to severe pain

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

  • 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 immediate attention if you notice any of these symptoms:

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

  • Breathing problems or a fast heart rate

  • Feeling very tired, sluggish, or dizzy

  • Skin rash