- Take pain medication when you need it. Studies show that patients who manage their pain heal faster than those who don’t. It’s more effective to keep a level amount of pain medication in your system than to wait until your pain becomes unmanageable.
- Taper off. Take pain medication less frequently; take one pill instead of two (or a half instead of a whole) when you begin to feel better. When you think you can tolerate something less, switch to extra-strength Tylenol or whatever your doctor recommends.
- Prevent nausea. Take pain pills with milk or food to prevent nausea. If they still make you nauseous, don’t take Maalox, Mylanta, Tums, or other antacids, which may negate the effectiveness of the antibiotics. Ask your surgeon for a different prescription instead.
- Be prepared for a mid-evening dose of pain medication. In the first week or two after surgery, your pain may wake you up during the night. Time your medication so you have one dose just before you go to bed. Keep water and saltines or graham crackers by your bed so you won’t have to get up (or wake someone else) to take your medicine.
- Combat constipation. Pain medications and decreased mobility may leave you irregular, and straining from constipation adds stress on abdominal incisions. Act preemptively to prevent the problem. Increase your daily fiber intake and stay hydrated. Iron promotes constipation—if you take a multivitamin, use one without iron until your bowels are back to normal. Frequent walking will also help restore your regularity. If your bowels refuse to cooperate, try Colace, Senekot, or other stool softener recommended by your doctor.
- Don’t drive until you’re no longer taking pain medication.
- Avoid alcohol. It exacerbates drowsiness from pain medication and can sometimes interfere with antibiotics.
Excerpted from The Breast Reconstruction Guidebook © 2012, The Johns Hopkins University Press