Bariatric surgery is a major invasive operation, and it is not unusual for patients to experience discomfort and pain. It is important during the first few weeks of recovery to remain in close contact with your bariatric surgeons and follow-up physician to ensure they are monitoring your recovery. It is extremely useful to understand what pain medication is safe for gastric bypass patients.
Pain and Discomfort After Bariatric Surgery
After surgery, your stomach is now at least 60% and sometimes up to 80% smaller, requiring the patient to eat much fewer amounts of food and feel full much faster. After release from hospital the recovery process continues at home and involves healing and adapting to the new sleeve-shaped stomach. Pain relievers can be taken to help alleviate soreness and discomfort, but some medications should be avoided altogether.
Do Not Take Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
It is quite common for people to use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications when experiencing pain, fever, or trying to prevent blood clots, and reducing inflammation. But these types of drugs leave a bariatric patient vulnerable to developing ulcers, which are difficult to treat after a bariatric procedure.
These types of drugs typically include:
- Aspirin (e.g., Bayer, Excedrin)
- Ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Nuprin, Motrin)
- Naproxen (e.g., Aleve)
Other prescription NSAIDs must also be avoided, such as:
The problem caused by these drugs are that they affect the stomach’s ability to create mucous that protects the stomach’s lining from the gastric fluid. Gastric fluid increases risk of stomach bleeding, ulcers, and can even result in a perforation in the stomach lining. Any perforation of the stomach pouch during the healing process can result in a significant medical complication.
Approved Pain Relief: Acetaminophen (Paracetamol)
Acetaminophen-based pain relievers such as Tylenol and a variety of prescription drugs are also approved for bariatric surgery patients. Sometimes opioids will also be prescribed to relieve discomfort.
How Long Will the Pain After Weight Loss Surgery Last?
Typically, pain after bariatric surgery will last for only a few weeks, with a significant reduction occurring after the first week or two. Provided the patient gets plenty of rest and avoids strenuous activities, there should be no complications.
You will know that something may be wrong if the patient suffers side effects like:
- fluid retention,
- increased blood pressure, or
- an increased appetite.
Follow All Recommendations from Your Bariatric Surgeon and Experts
You will receive various recommendations for your diet and activity level. The better you follow these recommendations the faster your recovery will be and the sooner any pain and discomfort will disappear. You will also find that weight loss continues and does not reverse itself. Once you are over the worst of your discomfort and pain, you can speed up your recovery through exercise. Initially, this does not have to be exhausting in any way.
In hospital, you can start by sitting up in bed and wiggling your toes to get your circulation moving. When you have moved home, get out of bed, and walk short distances. It is important to avoid lifting anything heavier than 15 to 20 pounds for the first six weeks. Short walks outside can be increased by the sixth week to include 3 – 4 walks a day combining for a total of 35 – 40 minutes of walking. Continue following recommended exercise and eating routines and you will soon overcome pain and begin enjoying the benefits of your surgery of further weight loss and improvements to your general health.
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