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Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting – Postoperative pain

What is Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting – Postoperative pain

According to Wu, et al., postoperative pain results from surgical trauma and is a significant challenge for healthcare providers. About 75% of patients experience moderate or severe pain following surgery. The mainstay of treating postoperative pain is the use of opioid analgesics such a morphine, hydromorphine, meperidine, or fentanyl.

However, these drugs are associated with a number of undesirable side effects which can delay patient recovery. These include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sedation, and decreased gut motility. The use of customised strategies for administering analgesic, for example patient controlled analgesia, is designed to reduce consumption of opioid analgesics and have resulted in better pain control. However, even with individualised pharmacological approaches for treating postoperative pain, the side effects of opioid analgesics remain high [1].

How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) view Postoperative nausea & vomiting – Postoperative pain

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) theory, the Acupuncture channels are the means by which energy or Qi (the body’s bio-electricity) moves through the body. Cut these lines and Qi and Blood (Xue) becomes blocked.

When undergoing an operation tissue that is cut, stretched, pulled, etc. is traumatised. This trauma causes blood to stagnate and may take the form of a bruise or haematoma. Under normal circumstances, a superficial bruise (one that can be seen on or just below the skin) tends to resolve itself over time, because the superficial layers of the body are highly vascularised. That means there are high level of blood vessels in any given area, which help to remove ‘dead blood’ from the tissues. However, in deeper regions of the body the blood vessels are not as densely distributed as near the skin and bruises can become cyst-like.

In addition, scar tissue forms where cuts through tissue have been made and this is different tissue to that which was formerly there. In other words, the tissue that forms into a scar is different to that nearby. As this frequently involves facia (through which Acupuncture channels are thought to pass), the Acupuncture channel is ‘cut’ or blocked and does not allow energy (Qi) to move through it freely. This usually results in pain, which does not readily respond to orthodox treatment.

Acupuncture Points and Channels
Postoperative Nausea and Vomiting

In Chinese medicine this is what we call stagnation of Qi and Blood (Xue) in the channels and/or collaterals. When these substances become obstructed, pain results. Pain that is sharp and stabbing in nature is a clear sign in TCM of Qi and Xue (Blood) stagnation. Pain that is dull and aching in nature is stagnation of Qi.

The concept of Xue (Blood) in Chinese medicine involves more than just the substance we know as Blood, it also involves other fluids and is acted upon and energised by Qi (body’s bio-electricity). Xue and Qi are mutually interdependent.

Following an operation, bruising, swelling and formation of scar tissue all contribute to the interruption of the flow of Qi and Xue which results in moderate to severe pain. Over time, this usually resolves. However, using Acupuncture before and after surgery can speed up this process and promote faster healing [2,3]. In addition, using Acupuncture to re-establish the energy flow through the tissues that were cut, reduces and usually eliminates the pain resulting from operations and post-operative inflammation, swelling and scaring is also reduced.

In addition to Acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy can also be a very effective way to manage and treat post-operative pain, swelling, inflammation, scaring and other problems such as nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, etc.

At Kurrajong Natural Medicine Centre our team of highly qualified and experienced practitioners will discuss and design a specific treatment program for postoperative recovery. Simply call (02) 4573 0784

What You Can Do to Help Yourself

Depending on the type of surgery, recovery will be more or less complex and differ in the amount of time it will take. However, here are some resources that will provide you with sound information:

Before you have your operation it is also advisable that you have a discussion with your doctors as to how to prepare for your operation and what you should do to make recovery easier.

Do whatever you are able to improve your overall health before you undergo an operation. The more invasive the operation the more trauma your body will undergo. By improving your overall health prior to the surgery your body will be more able to repair itself once you’re back home.



Wu M-S, Chen K-H, Chen I-F, Huang SK, Tzeng P-C, Yeh M-L, et al. (2016) The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Post-Operative Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0150367. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0150367

Yuan, W., & Wang, Q. (2019). Perioperative acupuncture medicine: a novel concept instead of acupuncture anesthesia. Chinese medical journal, 132(6), 707–715. https://doi.org/10.1097/CM9.0000000000000123

Lu Z, Dong H, Wang Q, Xiong L. Perioperative acupuncture modulation: more than anaesthesia. Br J Anaesth 2015; 115:183–193. doi: 10.1093/bja/aev227.