Surgery causes major harm to the body. A deep cut results in swelling, pain, bruising, and bleeding. Anesthesia may cause an upset stomach and thinking problems, and make you feel dizzy or faint.
Bandages, salves, and keeping a wound clean will help it heal faster. It may also stop an infection. Many types of medicines ease symptoms such as pain. Opioids used to treat pain can cause even more problems. They can make you feel sick and can be habit forming.
To avoid medicines or unpleasant side effects, some people turn to natural therapies. These may include alternative treatments, such as acupuncture, or herbal and supplements. They may be helpful in treating postoperative pain, swelling, nausea, or bruising. Some may help wounds heal faster. Others treat anxiety and stress before and after surgery. The methods below may be combined or used with standard treatments.
- Acupoint stimulation is likely to ease nausea and vomiting and improve digestive function after some surgeries K1-K2
- Acupuncture is likely to ease pain, nausea, digestive function, and reduce the need for opioids A1-A15
- Chewing gum is likely to promote digestive function after some surgeries BB1-BB4
- Electrotherapy is likely to reduce and delay the need for opioid pain relievers after total knee arthroplasty X1
- Exercise-based interventions are likely to ease pain and improve function in people awaiting hip replacement surgery but not knee replacement surgery FF1
- Music interventions are likely to ease postoperative pain, anxiety, and distress T1-T5
Herbs and Supplements:
- Antioxidant supplements are likely to provide heart and kidney protection and reduce length of hospital stay Y1-Y3
- Calcium alone or with vitamin Dis likely to prevent low calcium levels after thyroid removal surgery N1, N2
- Ginger is likely to ease postoperative nausea and vomiting Q1
- Licorice is likely to ease postoperative sore throat R1
- Motherwort is likely to reduce postpartum blood loss S1
- Prebiotics, probiotics, and synbiotics are likely to reduce infection, length of stay, urinary tract infection, sepsis, and pneumonia P1-P7
- Vitamin C is likely to reduce length of stay and some complications after surgery J1-J3
May Be Effective
- Acupressure may ease pain, nausea, and vomiting M1-M3
- Aromatherapy may ease nausea V1
- Magnetic Therapy may ease pain, swelling, bruising, and nausea B1-B3
- Massage may ease pain, anxiety, and scarring C1-C5
- Psychological preparation may help with pain and reduce length of stay CC1
- Relaxation therapies , such as guided imagery, breathing techniques, and music, may ease pain and anxiety D1-D4
Herbs and Supplements:
- Arnica may ease pain, swelling, and bruising E1-E3
- Coenzyme Q10 may prevent complications in people having heart surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass EE1
- Honey may ease pain and promote wound healing after tonsillectomy in children Z1, Z2 Iron may ease infections L1
- Magnesium may ease heart problems and pain in children having certain surgeries W1, W2
- Melatonin may ease anxiety before surgery and improve sleep quality DD1, DD2
- N-Acetylcysteine may reduce irregular heartbeat after cardiac surgery GG1
- Omega-3 fatty acids may improve liver and heart function and reduce infection and length of hospital stay after certain surgeries O1-O8
- Propolis may ease pain, bleeding, and promote wound healing F1
- Topical green tea may ease pain and speed wound healing after episiotomy G1
- Traditional Chinese herbal medicine may improve blood flow after breast surgery H1
Unlikely to Be Effective
Not Enough Data to Assess
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
Herbs and Supplements to Be Used With Caution
Talk to your doctor about all herbs or supplements you are taking. Some may interact with your treatment plan or health conditions. Some supplements discussed here have certain concerns.
Traditional Chinese herbal medicine should only be taken under a doctor’s care. Toxicities and side effects vary depending on the herb and amount used.
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REFA3 Kim YH, Kim KS, Lee HJ, Shim JC, Yoon SW. The efficacy of several neuromuscular monitoring modes at the P6 acupuncture point in preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting. Anesth Analg. 2011;112(4):819-823.
REFA4 Yi WM, Pan AZ, Li JJ, Luo DF, Huang QH. Clinical observation on the acupuncture treatment in patients with urinary retention after radical hysterectomy. Chin J Integr Med. 2011;17(11):860-863.
REFA5 An LX, Chen X, Ren XJ, Wu HF. Electro-acupuncture decreases postoperative pain and improves recovery in patients undergoing a supratentorial craniotomy. Am J Chin Med. 2014;42(5):1099-1109.
REFA6 Liu Y, May BH, Zhang AL, et al. Acupuncture and related therapies for treatment of postoperative ileus in colorectal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2018;2018:3178472.
REFA7 Asmussen S, Maybauer DM, et al. Effects of Acupuncture in Anesthesia for Craniotomy: A Meta-Analysis. J Neurosurg Anesthesiol. 2017 Jul;29(3):219-227.
REFA8 Tedesco D, Gori D, et al. Drug-Free Interventions to Reduce Pain or Opioid Consumption After Total Knee Arthroplasty: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Surg. 2017 Oct 18;152(10):e172872.
REFA9 Kim KH, Kim DH, et al. Acupuncture for recovery after surgery in patients undergoing colorectal cancer resection: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acupunct Med. 2016 Aug;34(4):248-256.
REFA10 Shin HC, Kim JS, et al. The effect of acupuncture on postoperative nausea and vomiting after pediatric tonsillectomy: A meta-analysis and systematic review. Laryngoscope. 2016 Aug;126(8):1761-1767.
REFA11 Wu MS, Chen KH, et al. The Efficacy of Acupuncture in Post-Operative Pain Management: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. PLoS One. 2016 Mar 9;11(3):e0150367.
REFA12 Lee A, Chan SK, et al. Stimulation of the wrist acupuncture point PC6 for preventing postoperative nausea and vomiting. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Nov 2;(11):CD003281.
REFA13 Cho HK, Park IJ, et al. Can perioperative acupuncture reduce the pain and vomiting experienced after tonsillectomy? A meta-analysis. Laryngoscope. 2016 Mar;126(3):608-615.
REFA14 Cho YH, Kim CK, et al. Acupuncture for acute postoperative pain after back surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Pain Pract. 2015 Mar;15(3):279-291.
REFA15 Cheong KB, Zhang JP, et al. The effectiveness of acupuncture in prevention and treatment of postoperative nausea and vomiting--a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 13;8(12):e82474.
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REFC1 Piotrowski MM, Paterson C, Mitchinson A, Kim HM, Kirsh M, Hinshaw DB. Massage as adjuvant therapy in the management of acute postoperative pain: a preliminary study in men. J Am Coll Surg. 2003;197(6):1037-1046.
REFC2 Dreyer NE, Cutshall SM, Huebner M, et al. Effect of massage therapy on pain, anxiety, relaxation, and tension after colorectal surgery: A randomized study. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2015;21(3):154-159.
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REFD1 Holden-Lund C. Effects of relaxation with guided imagery on surgical stress and wound healing. Res Nurs Health. 1988;11(4):235-244.
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REFE1 Kaziro GS. Metronidazole (Flagyl) and Arnica Montana in the prevention of post-surgical complications, a comparative placebo controlled clinical trial. Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1984;22(1):42-49.
REFE2 Jeffrey SL, Belcher HJ. Use of Arnica to relieve pain after carpal-tunnel release surgery. Altern Ther Health Med. 2002;8(2):66-68.
REFE3 Kang JY, Tran KD, Seiff SR, Mack WP, Lee WW. Assessing the effectiveness of Arnica montana and Rhododendron tomentosum (Ledum palustre) in the reduction of ecchymosis and edema after oculofacial surgery: preliminary results. Ophthalmic Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;33(1):47-52.
REFF1 Moon JH, Lee MY, Chung YJ, Rhee CK, Lee SJ. Effect of topical propolis on wound healing process after tonsillectomy: randomized controlled study. Clin Exp Otorhinolaryngol. 2018;11(2):146-150.
Topical Green Tea
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Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine (TCHM)
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REFJ1 Chen S, Roffey DM, et al. Effect of Perioperative Vitamin C Supplementation on Postoperative Pain and the Incidence of Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clin J Pain. 2016 Feb;32(2):179-185.
REFJ2 Shi R, Li ZH, et al. Sole and combined vitamin C supplementation can prevent postoperative atrial fibrillation after cardiac surgery: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Cardiol. 2018 Jun;41(6):871-878.
REFJ3 Hemilä H, Chalker E. Vitamin C Can Shorten the Length of Stay in the ICU: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 27;11(4). pii: E708.
REFK1 Wang M, Gao YH, et al. Zusanli (ST36) acupoint injection for preventing postoperative ileus: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Complement Ther Med. 2015 Jun;23(3):469-483.
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REFL1 Schack A, Berkfors AA, et al. The Effect of Perioperative Iron Therapy in Acute Major Non-cardiac Surgery on Allogenic Blood Transfusion and Postoperative Haemoglobin Levels: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. World J Surg. 2019 Jul;43(7):1677-1691.
REFM1 Liu Y, Tang WPY, et al. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Acupressure for Postoperative Gastrointestinal Symptoms among Abdominal Surgery Patients. Am J Chin Med. 2017;45(6):1127-1145.
REFM2 Zhong Q, Wang D, et al. Effectiveness of Auricular Acupressure for Acute Postoperative Pain after Surgery: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Chin J Integr Med. 2019 Mar;25(3):225-232.
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REFN2 Xing T, Hu Y, et al. Role of oral calcium supplementation alone or with vitamin D in preventing post-thyroidectomy hypocalcaemia: A meta-analysis. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Feb;98(8):e14455.
Omega 3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
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REFP1 Sawas T, Al Halabi S, et al. Patients Receiving Prebiotics and Probiotics Before Liver Transplantation Develop Fewer Infections Than Controls: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2015 Sep;13(9):1567-74.e3; quiz e143-144.
REFP2 Lytvyn L, Quach K, et al. Probiotics and synbiotics for the prevention of postoperative infections following abdominal surgery: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Hosp Infect. 2016 Feb;92(2):130-139.
REFP3 Arumugam S, Lau CS, et al. Probiotics and Synbiotics Decrease Postoperative Sepsis in Elective Gastrointestinal Surgical Patients: a Meta-Analysis. J Gastrointest Surg. 2016 Jun;20(6):1123-1131.
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REFP6 Ouyang X, Li Q, et al. Probiotics for preventing postoperative infection in colorectal cancer patients: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Colorectal Dis. 2019 Mar;34(3):459-469.
REFP7 He D, Wang HY, et al. Use of pro-/synbiotics as prophylaxis in patients undergoing colorectal resection for cancer: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Clin Res Hepatol Gastroenterol. 2013 Sep;37(4):406-415.
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REFDD1 Hansen MV, Halladin NL, et al. Melatonin for pre- and postoperative anxiety in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Apr 9;(4):CD009861.
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