Patient Care

Being prepared helps put you and your child in control!

Pain is an uncomfortable feeling that tells you something may be wrong in your body. When there is an injury to your body, such as through surgery, nerve cells send signals into the spinal cord and then up to the brain. Pain medicine blocks those signals or reduces their effect on the brain. After your child's surgery or treatment, your nurses and doctors will ask you and your child about the pain because they want your child to be comfortable. Both medicine and non-medicine treatments can help to prevent and control pain. This information will help you take an active role in making sure that your child's pain is minimal.

Ask Your Doctor or Nurse What to Expect

  • Will there be much pain after the surgery or treatment?
  • Where will the pain be?
  • How long is the pain likely to last?

Discuss Pain Control Options with Your Doctor or Nurse

  • How will pain be controlled after surgery or treatment?
  • Tell the doctor or nurse what has worked for your child in the past and what has not worked in the past.
  • Ask about possible side effects that may occur with pain medicine.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse about your concerns
  • Ask your nurse about non-medicine options to decrease your child's pain. These include rocking and holding your child; hot or cold packs; music, stories, or videos to distract your child; and techniques to help your child relax.

Help the Doctors and Nurses "Measure" the Pain

They may ask your child to rate the pain on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being no pain and 10 being the worst pain they can imagine, or to choose a face from the Faces Scale that best describes the pain. Your child may also choose to draw his or her own rating scale to describe pain. You may need to help your child with these ratings:

  • It may be helpful to have your child set a pain control goal, such as having no pain greater than a "2" on the scale.
  • For children who are not able to use the pain scales, the doctors and nurses will rely on other signals of pain, such as increased heart rate, crying or grimacing, and on your judgment of your child's level of pain to guide their pain relief efforts.
  • Tell your doctor or nurse about any pain that won't go away.
  • Stick with the pain control plan if it is working. If it isn't working, your doctors and nurses can change the plan.

Things You Should Know

  • Something should be done about the pain as soon as it starts. It is more difficult to ease pain once it has become established. This is a key step in proper pain control.
  • The nurses may ask your child to accept pain medicine at set times for the first 24 hours after surgery. Our goal is to prevent or minimize pain.
  • Pain medication can be given by mouth, into the bloodstream (intravenous or IV) or into the rectum (suppository) or through a catheter placed painlessly into the spinal area (epidural).
  • If you know your child's pain will get worse when he or she starts walking or doing breathing treatments, ask for pain medicine first.

Copyright protected material used with permission of the authors and the University of Iowa’s Virtual Hospital,