Sleeping Tips for Post-Operative Pain

When sleeping is hard with pain after surgery, here are some tips from Stacie Grossfeld, orthopedic surgeon in louisville, KY

When faced with an issue on our phones, laptops, or other various technological devices, oftentimes we know that by turning it off and then on again will reset the device, and things will begin working normally again. A good night’s sleep can sometimes do the same for humans! You go to sleep with a stomachache, or maybe you have a headache, or sore throat, and you wake up feeling just fine – a nice 8 hours seems to fix it better than any medicine would.

Sleep is obviously not the cure-all for every condition, but it is a critical factor in the body’s natural healing process. Proper sleep allows the body to heal in plenty of different ways, but specifically, it:

  • Prompts your immune system to activate the release of a type of small proteins called ‘cytokines,’ which fight inflammation, infection, and trauma
  • Allows you heart to take a break by dropping blood pressure, slowing breath, and relaxing the muscles of the body, which reduces inflammation
  • Replenishes your body’s energy and balances the hormones that contribute to hunger and stress
  • Slows brain activity, which can lead to a more productive attitude and positive feelings

When we’re in physical pain, though, as the result of a surgery, injury, or operation, it can be difficult to find a good night’s sleep in the cards. Especially if your injury affects your normal sleeping position, you might have a hard time catching your Z’s.

Here’s a few tips for sleeping with post-op pain, as well as the best sleeping positions for 4 common operations that Dr. Stacie Grossfeld, Orthopaedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist, helps rehabilitate.

General Post-Op Pain Sleeping Tips:

  • Practice Your Sleep

If you know you’ll be having an operation in the near future that will affect a part of your body for an extended period of time, practice your sleeping! An abrupt change in position might contribute to restlessness and, when combined with new pain, can be unmanageable. If you start shifting your position and sleeping differently before the pain is introduced, you’ll have a better chance at getting more sleep.

  • Take Pain Medications Strategically Before Bed

Pain medications differ in many ways, from potency, contents, time it takes to be effective, and the time it stays effective. Talk to your doctor beforehand about the medications you’ll be prescribed and get the scoop on side effects and if there are stipulations to when you can take them, because you’ll want that relief to help lull your body to sleep. This can be an important tool in your pain-fighting toolbox, so get your information from the source!

  • Establish a Strong Internal Clock

Waking up and going to bed at the same time everyday isn’t always the most glamorous nor the most convenient, but it helps a lot in the long run. Not only with pain! Having a consistent schedule leads to more, higher-quality sleep year-round, and that has proven to help you:

  • Get sick less often
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Lower your risk for serious health problems, like diabetes and heart disease
  • Reduce stress and improve your mood
  • Think more clearly and do better in school/at work
  • Get along better with people
  • Make better decisions to avoid injuries

The Best Sleeping Position for…

1. Knee Surgery and Knee Arthroscopy

For the best healing results after knee surgery, sleep on your back with your leg propped up and straight. However, DO NOT place the propping pillows directly under the knee, as this bends the knee slightly – instead, place them under your calf or foot so that the knee remains completely straight while elevated.

Most doctors don’t recommend sleeping on your side until further along in your treatment and healing, but side sleeping may be more comfortable for some and, with the right support, completely fine, as well. On some procedures, it’s better to wait for side sleeping until your doctor gives the green light, but it’s always important to keep a couple of pillows between your legs to keep your knee up.

2. Shoulder Surgery and Rotator Cuff Surgery

For any shoulder surgeries, including rotator cuff surgery, sleeping with an incline is the most recommended position. Whether this is on a recliner, with a wedge, or with a simple pillow-pile, an incline prevents you from rolling to your healing shoulder. This is a risk that sleeping on your non-operative side or back presents, and that cuts off the proper blood flow and put tension and pressure on the injury, potentially re-injuring it or slowing the healing process down.

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury and have undergone surgery for it in the Louisville, Kentucky-area, board certified sports medicine physician Dr. Stacie Grossfeld at Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC can help with your recovery. Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC is accepting new patients, and same day appointments are available. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Orthopaedic Specialists PLLC today at 502-212-2663.