Fast Facts: Alternatives to Opioids for Pain Management After Common Surgeries for Women

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Puja Shah

Pain levels after surgery are different for everyone, and there are non-opioid pain management options to treat acute pain after common surgeries for women, like hysterectomies, mastectomies, breast reconstruction and cesarean sections (C-sections). Here are some facts to consider when discussing a pain management plan with your healthcare provider (HCP).

Women face differences in treatment when compared to men, and are 40% more likely than men to use opioids three to six months after their procedure. Prescription opioids are medicines that can help provide relief from severe pain and acute pain after surgeries or injuries. Some examples of opioids are morphine, hydrocodone and oxycodone. Opioids come with possible side effects after surgery, such as nausea, vomiting, constipation, drowsiness or impaired thinking skills. Opioids for acute pain are meant to be a part of a short-term treatment plan. Before taking these medicines, be sure to educate yourself about possible side effects and the risk of misuse, addiction or overdose.Addiction is a disease that leads to someone not being able to control the use of a drug or medication. Overuse is taking larger amounts of a drug over a longer period of time than prescribed. Dependence is when your body needs a drug each day, and larger doses of the drug, to feel better.Misuse is when a person uses prescription drugs in a different way than prescribed.Non-opioids can be used to effectively manage post-surgical pain following various common procedures, and non-opioid pain management options avoid the risks that come with taking opioid medications. Non-opioid options after surgery include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen or aspirin; acetaminophen; and a long-acting numbing medication. When preparing for surgery, discuss any problems you’ve had with pain medication in the past. Your medical history, mental health and any substance use are important for determining your risk for opioid addiction.You and your HCP can look at a variety of medications and treatments that include both prescription opioids and non-opioid options. It’s important to feel empowered to ask about all the options that are available for pain management.


Educate yourself about your pain management options, including opioid alternatives, for your acute pain after surgery.Know all your current medication names and dosages, as well as any allergies to medications, and let your healthcare team know about any issues you’ve had with past pain medications. Ask about pain management options before surgery to make a treatment plan ahead of time.Find out what to expect regarding pain after surgery and discuss how to best prepare for your recovery. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. You know your pain level and your body the best!

This resource was created with support from Pacira BioSciences, Inc.