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How long will I have to take pain medicine

Dr. John T. Smith

University of Utah Department of Orthopaedic Surgery

Most patients need some pain medicine for about two weeks.

Dr. Robert S. Pashman

Los Angeles, CA

Young patients remain on pain medicines for two to four weeks after surgery. Adult patients may require pain medicines beyond that point but are discouraged from taking them for more than three months.

Dr. Charles E. Johnston, II

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital Orthopedic Group

For the first 2-3 weeks, gradually decreasing the dose and frequency.

Dr. Thomas G. Lowe

Woodridge Orthopaedics & Spine Center, P.C.

Pain medicine is usually only necessary for 2-3 weeks after surgery.

Dr. Jean-Pierre C. Farcy

New York, NY
M.M.C. Spine Center

Usually the pain medication prescribed upon discharge from the hospital will be sufficient for two weeks, a renewal is usually sufficient and after that occasionally extra strength acetaminophen is recommended.

Dr. David W. Polly, Jr.

Minneapolis, MN

You only have to take pain meds as long as you have pain. I have had some people only need it for 3 or 4 days after surgery. Some need it for several weeks.

Dr. W. Christopher Urban

Glen Burnie, MD

Most patients will require some type of pain medicine during the post-operative period. There are a wide variety of medications available to fit the needs of each individual. Narcotic medications are useful during the initial few weeks. These can be gradually weaned as recovery progresses and the pain diminishes. Patients undergoing a fusion operation should avoid taking non-steroidal medications because they inhibit bone formation and diminish the chance of obtaining a successful fusion.

Dr. Stephen Ondra

Chicago, IL

Pain medication is typically taken for 1-3 months. At the end of this time, occasional Tylenol will be required, but narcotic medication will no longer need to be given.

Dr. Michael F. O'Brien

Denver Orthopaedics

This is very variable. Our experience is that patients generally are completely off pain medicine by six weeks after surgery. During the first six weeks after surgery we are as liberal with pain medications as is required by the patient. There is no fear of becoming "addicted" to the pain medications as my experience is with most patients adolescents and adults once the pain has decreased the patients voluntarily discontinue their medication.

Dr. John P. Lubicky

Chicago, IL
Shriner's Hospital for Children

You only need to take pain medicine as long as you are having pain that's bad enough to require some help. Typically pain medicine should be taken on an as-needed basis and not on a regular schedule.

Dr. Baron S. Lonner

New York, NY

Most children and adolescents do not require pain medication beyond ten days to two weeks following the surgery. They may require Tylenol on occasion for mild aches and pains thereafter. Adults tend to require medication for up to two months following the surgery in the form of a narcotic such as Percocet. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, etc. should not be taken as these may inhibit the process of fusion.

Dr. Patrick Bosch

Albuquerque, NM

Each person is different, but most take narcotic pain medication for 2-3 weeks after surgery. As pain decreases, patients can gradually taper off their use of pain medication.

Dr. Scott J. Luhmann

St. Louis, MO

In general, most individuals take prescription narcotic pain medication for two to three weeks, with less medication taken each week after surgery. Over this period, use of acetaminophen is encouraged during the daytime while using prescription pain medication prior to bedtime to help in getting a restful night’s sleep.

Dr. Dennis G. Crandall

Mesa, AZ

A few to several weeks, depending on your age, health, prior medication requirements, and the type of surgery done.

Dr. Frank J. Schwab

New York, NY

The amount of discomfort and pain will depend upon the type of surgery performed. Most likely, your surgeon will send you home from the hospital with a two-week supply of pain medication. Gradually this should be decreased day by day until no pain medication is needed. Often in the process of reducing the medication, your doctor will change the prescription from a narcotic to a non-narcotic anti-inflammatory before complete discontinuation of all pain medication.

Dr. James Mooney, III

Detroit, MI

Pain medication may be necessary for a week or two after the time of discharge but is generally not required after that point.

The commentary above recounts the experiences of these physicians. Medtronic invited them to share their stories candidly. Keep in mind that results vary; not every patient's response is the same. Talk with your doctor to learn more about any products that are mentioned above.

It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications and benefits of spinal surgery with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your doctor's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.

  • Published: June 20, 2002
  • Updated: April 19, 2010