Pain relief after your procedure


There are different ways that we can give you pain relief after your operation or procedure.

Tablets, capsules or liquids

These are used for all types of pain. You need to be able to eat, drink and not feel sick for these medicines to work.


These are put in your bottom and melt to release medicine. They are useful if you cannot swallow, or if you are likely to be sick.


These are often needed straight after surgery, especially when you are in recovery. We might do the injections through a small thin tube (cannula) into a vein. We can also give injections into your leg or bottom using a needle.

Patient-controlled analgesia (PCA)

PCA is used to control pain after operations. The anaesthetist puts a small thin tube (cannula) into a vein in your arm or hand before your operation. The cannula is attached to a tube connected to the PCA pump.

After the operation, we give you a button to press whenever you need more pain relief. This button releases a set amount of painkillers (usually morphine) into your blood stream.

People often worry that they might give themselves too much pain relief with the PCA pump. However, the pumps only allow a set amount of painkillers to be released. No matter how many times you press the button, you cannot give yourself an overdose of painkillers.

The nurses monitor you while you use a PCA to make sure that your pain is controlled.

It is important that family members and friends do not press the PCA button.

Local-anaesthetic catheters

These are fine tubes used to help with pain. The surgeon or anaesthetist can put them under your skin near to the surgical wound or the nerves in this area.

Each catheter is attached to a pump that contains local anaesthetic.

The local anaesthetic blocks pain signals from nearby nerves and should ease your pain. The pump can be kept on for several days.

Not all operations are suitable for having local-anaesthetic catheters.

Epidural infusion

An epidural is a type of pain control sometimes used after major operations.

We give you pain medicines through a tube from a locked pump system. They bathe the pain nerves in your back. This blocks feelings of pain from the part of your body that is operated on.

The epidural infusion usually continues for 2 to 5 days.

Read more about the possible side effects of having an epidural.

Resource number: 2737/VER5
Last reviewed: June 2023
Next review: June 2026


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