Symptoms and Signs of Pain After Surgery

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 9/28/2021

Doctor's Notes on Pain After Surgery

Pain after surgery occurs after the aesthetics used during a surgical operation are stopped. Signs and symptoms of pain after surgery are common to almost everyone who has undergone a surgical procedure. Signs and symptoms in children and some adults include

  • crying,
  • poor feeding and fluid intake,
  • lethargy, and
  • sleeplessness.

Additional pain may occur at the operative site when it is touched or when the body is moved. Over time, as the patient heals from surgery, the signs and symptoms usually decrease and stop. However, a few patients may develop chronic pain.

Causes of pain after surgery are initially due to the cutting of the skin and other tissue that stimulates nerve fibers to signal pain. Other causes of pain after surgery can be signs of surgical complications such as infection of tissues at or near the surgical site, hematomas, tissue swelling, vomiting, formation of fistulas, bleeding from the wound or into the body, heart problems, pneumonia, and/or chronic medical conditions.

What Are the Treatments for Pain After Surgery?

Pain reduction after minor surgery usually consists of the following oral drugs:

Pain reduction after major surgery may include one or more of the following treatments:

  • IV pain medications (often provided as patient-controlled analgesia by using a fixed dose that is given intravenously on demand by the awake post-surgical patient with built-in controls to prevent overdosing)
  • Epidural delivery by catheter
  • Spinal anesthesia by direct injection
  • Nerve blocks by local injections
  • Wound infiltration with direct injections

Drugs are chosen by your surgeon and are administered to provide a less painful recovery from your surgery.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.