The old notion that pain is somehow "good" for you should be put to rest for good, say health officials. They are increasingly recognizing that control of pain leads to more rapid recovery for hospitalized patients, and can even cut costs.
While pain can function as the body's alarm that something is wrong, it can also be counterproductive, says Dr. Lynn Webster, who directs the Lifetree Clinical Research and Pain Clinic in Salt Lake City.
"Most of us just want to lie there, because if we move after an operation or major trauma, it hurts. So, it does seem intuitive that's the thing to do so we can heal," Webster says.
But when patients just lie there, Webster says they're putting themselves at risk. "Patients who have good post-op pain control are able to breathe better," says Webster. Deep breaths can prevent the development of pneumonia, which can lead to sepsis and, in severe cases, require that patients be put on a ventilator. If patients can get up and walk fairly quickly after a procedure, then they also decrease their risk of blood clots in the legs which, in some cases, can be fatal.