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Non-Opioid Pain Management

Pain after surgery, also known as acute pain, is usually most intense in the first few days after a procedure. Luckily, this period of discomfort generally subsides after one to three days, and in most cases, can be well controlled with over-the-counter acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Motrin® or Advil®) taken at regular, scheduled times. Patients are often prescribed opioids for acute pain; however, if pain is manageable, opioids are neither required nor necessary.

It’s also important to remember that medication is only part of a pain management plan. Non-drug solutions can also be very effective for helping patients resume activities needed to heal, including walking, eating, and sleeping.

Some non-drug pain management options that can help distract from discomfort:

  • Reading a book
  • Listening to music
  • Watching television
  • Daily reflection and medication

A surgeon may also direct patients to use other methods to alleviate pain such as applying ice, elevation, compression, and taking short walks. Learn more about after-surgery care and pain management:

Pediatric Surgical Pain Management Toolkit

This toolkit focuses on prevention of opioid-related complications in children and adolescents by intervening at the point many are first introduced to them: when acute pain is treated after surgery. Providers and parents can find best practices, free educational materials, and sharable resources in this toolkit.

Opioid Prescribing for Wisdom Tooth Extraction

Check out this one-minute video about non-opioid pain management options for children and teens after wisdom teeth removal. Video captions are in Arabic.

Managing Your Pain After Surgery Without Opioids (Adults)

Recent studies have shown that surgical pain can be managed using non-opioid, over-the-counter pain medications (acetaminophen and ibuprofen). This three-page guide can be provided to patients to help understand how to manage post-operative pain.

Pain Control Optimization Pathway

The Pain Control Optimization Pathway (POP) is an innovative, opioid sparing, acute pain management plan. Carefully tailored to meet the demands of specific surgical procedures, POP provides uncompromising pain management to opioid-naïve patients by focusing on education and functional recovery goals.

Over-the-Counter Quick Reference – Dental

A condensed two-pager on using acetaminophen and NSAIDs for postoperative pain management.

Over-the-Counter Quick Reference – Surgical

A condensed one-pager on using acetaminophen and NSAIDs for postoperative pain management.

Non-Opioid Acute Care Pain Management – Adults

A webpage resource outlining a multimodal approach to managing postoperative pain through the use of non-opioid medications.

Impacting the Opioid Crisis: Prevention, Education, and Practice for Non-Prescribing Providers

This free course will empower non-prescribing providers and other learners in directly impacting the opioid epidemic through increased knowledge and tools to transform practice and policies.

How Do You Treat Pain? (For Teens)

A one-page flyer created by the Pediatric Trauma Group at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital focused on non-medication options for teens.

Non-Drug Options for Pain Management and Comfort in Children

A document created by Michigan Medicine Child Life providing greater detail on non-medication strategies.

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