Shoulder Pain After Laparoscopy
Causes And How To Relief Shoulder Pain After Surgery

Shoulder pain after laparoscopy is very common.

It is due to the gas pumped into your abdomen to expand it and create space for manoeuvrings. It should go away within 3 - 5 days.

About 7 in 10 people who undergo a laparoscopic procedure will develop pain in one or both of their shoulder.

The pain tends to be at the tip of the shoulder. For many, they do not notice this pain in the first day, but it develops gradually and become severe on day 3 and then starts getting better by day 5.

The pain may also spread to the lower neck.

Let's review the causes and treatment of this annoying pain after undergoing a keyhole or laparoscopic surgery as well as what can be done to reduce such pain.

What Causes This Pain?

  • Pain in the shoulder after laparoscopy is due to irritation of the diaphragm - the dome shaped muscle under both lungs that separates the chest from the abdomen.  It is not due to an injury to the shoulder or neck.
  • About 2 to 3 liters of a special gas called carbon dioxide is pumped into the cavity of the abdomen to expand it and create space for the surgeon to be able to work. After laparoscopy, the gas it let out, but some will certainly remain. On seating up or standing or walking, the remaining gas bubbles forth and rises to stay under the diaphragm.
  • A small amount of it dissolves in the moisture on the surface of the diaphragm causing irritation of the diaphragm. Because it is the same nerve that send pain signals to both the shoulder and the diaphragm, the brain is confused and thinks that the signal of irritation or pain is coming from the shoulder - what doctors call referred pain.
  • Rarely, shoulder pain after laparoscopy could be due to internal bleeding. To suffer shoulder tip pain due to internal bleeding, you would have lost a significant amount of blood, filling the whole of the abdominal cavity, and rising up to under the diaphragm, causing the same type of irritation described above.
  • If your shoulder pain after a minimal access surgery is due to internal bleeding, this can easily be identified because you will feel very weak, your heart rate will be very fast, your blood pressure will be low, you will be passing very little or no urine, and your abdomen will be very distended.
  • It is very rare for this to happen, and tend to be seen in those with ectopic pregnancy who have bled significantly. This type of pain would not go away after a few days. Rather, the sufferer would deteriorate if nothing is done. If you are worried that the pain in your shoulder after a surgery is due to internal bleeding, speak to your doctor immediately.

How To Relief Shoulder Pain After Laparoscopy

Shoulder pain after a keyhole or minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy) will go away on its own after a few days. If you our pain is disturbing enough and you really want something to relief it, there are a few things you can do to help. They include:

  • Take some pain killers like Paracetamol or Tylenol. You can take up to 1gram four times a day.
  • If you can get hold of peppermint oil liquid, many persons have reported finding this helpful in overcoming their shoulder tip pain.
  • Warm bath and hot drink. This helps warm you up internally and increases rate at wish the trapped carbon dioxide inside you escapes out. 
  • Have as much rest as possible. Seating up, standing and walking worsens the pain. Lying down and having as much rest as you can in the next day or two will help.
  • If despite all the above measures you still suffering with this shoulder pain after laparoscopy, do not hesitate to call your doctor, especially if this lasts for more than 5 days.

Laparoscopy (Keyhole Surgery): Have your Say!

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