It is normal to be concerned about having pain after gastric sleeve surgery and what you can do to relieve the discomfort if it occurs. Managing pain and avoiding the dangerous side effects of pain medications are important throughout the recovery process, healing, and adapting to the smaller banana-shaped stomach.

Make time to discuss concerns with your primary care physician and bariatric surgeon before surgery. Having a plan for pain management is always good to do prior to surgery. You never want to be stuck in severe pain without being able to get ahold of your surgeon/doctor.

Pre-Op Preparation

Before taking any pain medications, over-the-counter pain relievers, or supplements, consult with your doctor, surgeon, or primary care physician for a thorough evaluation and medical advice.

You want to be sure you are taking the appropriate medications based on your diet and activity level. Steering away from these instructions or specific instructions from your healthcare professional can lead to risks. You are always welcome to contact the necessary specialist any time that you have questions or concerns.

If mild to moderate pain lingers after 1-2 weeks post-operatively, you may need medication to relieve pain. We will discuss the pain medication after gastric sleeve surgery you can take and what drugs you need to avoid.

Gastric Sleeve Basic Pain Management

During the recovery period, you may find that you experience mild to moderate pain, especially in the abdomen and inside the body, where the stomach was surgically removed. It can hurt while the stomach heals. It is not uncommon to feel the need to take pain medications as you recover from sleeve surgery.

Although it is safe to use some pain medicine after gastric sleeve surgery, there are some pain relievers and medications after gastric sleeve surgery you may want to avoid.

Disclaimer: Please consult your primary care physician or surgeon for personalized medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare before trying any medications.

Pain Immediately After Surgery

Unfortunately, pain and discomfort are more common immediately after gastric sleeve surgery as your body first experiences the procedure.

As simple and straightforward as the gastric sleeve is, it’s still a serious surgical procedure with pain as a common side effect. Mild, moderate, or severe pain can be treated through over-the-counter and prescription pain medication. Fortunately, immediately after surgery, you will be in the hospital recovering and will be given pain medication either intravenously (IV) or in pill form.

Your doctor may then prescribe pain medications (painkillers) prior to checking out of the hospital, or you may be expected to pick up over-the-counter medications to help make pain after gastric sleeve more manageable.

What Pain Medications Can I Take Immediately After Gastric Sleeve?

Within the timeframe that you are recovering and healing, you can only take pain medications that will not affect your stomach lining.

  • Acetaminophen-based pain relievers: Acetaminophen-based pain relievers, the most common of which is Tylenol, are considered safe to take after surgery. It is especially useful for mild pain relief that is needed in the first few weeks after surgery when discomfort is expected.

Can I take Tylenol after gastric sleeve surgery?

Yes, Tylenol is acetaminophen-based, making it one of the recommended pain medications to take after gastric sleeve surgery.

What Pain Medications Should I AVOID Immediately After Gastric Sleeve?

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should be avoided following sleeve gastrectomy. These pain relievers include well-known brands like;

  • Advil
  • Bayer
  • Motrin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Naproxen
  • Aspirin

NSAID pain relievers break down the mucosal membrane of the stomach. This side effect can cause ulcers, delay the healing process, and increase the risk of complications.

One Month After Gastric Sleeve Surgery

What Opioid Pain Medications Can I Take After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Opioids are powerful types of pain killers that may be acceptable to take after gastric sleeve surgery – but proceed with caution and always consult your doctor. Opioid drugs that are approved include;

  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin, for example)
  • Oxycodone (OxyCotin, Percocet, for example)
  • Morphine (Kadian, Avinza, for example)
  • Codeine

All opioid-based pain medication should be taken with caution and only as prescribed. They are proven to be highly addictive and in some cases, deadly. They also cause constipation after gastric sleeve.

What Over-the-Counter Pain Medications Can I Take After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Acetaminophen-based pain relievers, such as Tylenol and other over-the-counter pain relievers, can be approved for bariatric surgery patients. These can commonly be combined with opioids to aid in the relief of discomfort.

  • Tylenol
  • Acetaminophen
  • Paracetamol

What Pain Medications Should I AVOID One Month After Gastric Sleeve?

Your body needs at least one month of healing, so you’ll be expected to avoid NSAID pain relievers up until that time. Once you make it to one month after gastric sleeve surgery, you are allowed to use NSAID pain relievers again as well if you still notice any pain or discomfort.

However, it is important that you:

  • Use as Directed – You are expected to drink a full glass of water any time you take this type of medication, and this is especially important after bariatric surgery as dehydration is a serious risk.
  • Avoid When Possible – Talk to your doctor before you use NSAID pain relievers with any regularity, and use alternatives, such as Tylenol, whenever possible. NSAID pain relievers are safe, but those who experienced bariatric surgery still want to be extra careful.

List of Prescribed NSAIDs You Should AVOID

  • Daypro
  • Lodine
  • Indocin
  • Vimovo
  • Voltaren
  • Relafen

When Will Pain Subside After Gastric Sleeve Surgery?

Many patients do not experience much post-op pain or discomfort. The majority of any pain that is experienced usually subsides within 2 weeks. You may experience some mild discomfort. If you are experiencing pain severe enough to require strong medicine, you should speak with your doctor to ensure that there are no gastric sleeve complications.

Listen to Your Bariatric Surgeon, Primary Care Physician, and Pharmacist

Don’t forget to speak with your doctor or pharmacist about any other medications you may be taking. Some medicines interact with pain relievers or may be affected by a reduced digestion time in the stomach. Gastric sleeve is less likely to create medication complications when compared to malabsorptive weight loss procedures (changing the intestines and anatomy), such as gastric bypass or duodenal switch, but it is still important to always be careful.

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