For the first day or so, your child will need strong pain medication, usually given through an intravenous line (IV). Once your child feels well enough to eat or drink, medicine can be given by mouth.
The most common strong medicine used after surgery is morphine. Morphine works well for most types of pain after surgery and is safe even for babies. Dosing is done by weight, and your child's doctors and nurses will be watching your child carefully for side effects.
You can expect pain medicine dosage to be regular for the first day or so to keep the pain from getting out of control. It is easier to "stay ahead" of pain then to catch up, and it takes less medicine to keep comfortable. Staying ahead of pain means that you give pain medication before your child experiences the pain at its worst.
There are other similar medicines your child's doctor may prescribe. In addition, non-prescription medications such as acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or anti-inflammatory medicines (e.g., Toradol or ibuprofen) might be used.
You should not worry about your child becoming addicted to pain medication. This would be very rare, unless the child already has a problem with drugs or alcohol. Once the pain begins to get better, most children do not like the way the pain medicines make them feel and they use less and less, even if they are allowed to use as much as they want.
Special types of pain control that are offered to many children include epidurals, nerve blocks, caudal analgesia and patient-controlled analgesia pumps (PCA).
At Cincinnati Children's, the Acute Pain Service provides consultation for more complicated types of pain. The Pain Service staff is available 24 hours a day for patients.
Nurses from the Integrative Care Department provide massages and healing touch. These can help muscle pain and tension, anxiety and stress.
Physical therapy can help get things moving and strong again.
A TENS unit is also sometimes helpful. "TENS" stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. This is a palm-sized device that uses a small amount of electrical current to help the body shut down incoming pain messages at the level of the spinal cord. It can be useful for localized pain (pain in a specific area) and has few side effects.
Ask your child's doctor if any of these suggestions might be right for your child.