Tonsillectomy Recovery Pain Medicine

Tonsillectomy Pain Management

I added the topic of tonsillectomy recovery pain medicine to the, “Before Tonsillectomy,” menu for a reason. The time to discuss pain management with your doctor is NOT at 3 a.m. on day six of your recovery when you’ve run out of pain medication. Sitting in your doctors office before surgery with a clear head, during his or her normal hours, is the time to have a rational discussion of your tonsillectomy pain medication. It’s also a good time to discuss other medications like anti- nausea drugs and steroidal anti inflammatory medication. I go into more detail in my book, but suffice it to say that pain management is best discussed in advance, in the light of day, with clear heads.


Tonsillectomy Recovery Pain

Tonsillectomy Pain Medicine


There is no one right answer to the question of how to address tonsillectomy recovery pain medicine. I recommend discussing expectations with your doctor before any prescription is written. Some doctors appreciate how painful a tonsillectomy recovery can be for an adult. Some do not. Having experienced it myself and read the accounts of thousands of tonsillectomy patients I can say with confidence that ten days is a pretty average length of time that pain management will be an issue after surgery. 

Tonsillectomy fire extinguisher text

If I had it to do over, I’d ask my doctor to write a prescription for a pain medicine without acetaminophen, (e.g. Tylenol), in it. Many common narcotic pain medications contain acetaminophen. Too much of the stuff can be quite dangerous. A problem arises when one tries to ween off the narcotic pain medicine and switch to simple acetaminophen. If there’s breakthrough pain, taking another drug that ALSO contains it can be dangerous. If the two are separate, the patient can alternate as needed. Ask your doctor.

In my book I also discuss some of the effects of taking narcotic pain medicine for several days- not as a doctor, but as a patient who experienced it. I wouldn’t face the surgery without these medicines, but a little knowledge could have helped me cope better.

Tonsillectomy pain medicine isn’t always chemical. Drinking cold ice water, chewing gum, or applying ice to the throat can also help reduce the pain and inflammation associated with tonsillectomy surgery. Many patients also get short term relief from throat sprays like Chloraseptic.

In short, I recommend being your own advocate in your pain management. Be straight forward and honest with your doctor and ask for a second opinion if you feel your doctor is not addressing your concerns.After your tonsillectomy, don’t be afraid to contact your Doctor’s office with questions or concerns about your tonsillectomy recovery pain medicine.


Tonsillectomy Recovery

Tonsillectomy Recovery

38 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy Recovery Pain Medicine”

  1. Hi I’m 19 years old I had my tonsils removed on the 23rd of may. I am on day 7 now and it is hard to eat or drink. Every time I swallow I want to cry. I don’t think the hydrocodon is helping with pain at all. What should I do!?

  2. I have just gotten my tonsils out two days ago, December 27th. The medication prescribed to me is Acetaminophen. I honestly feel no difference in my level of pain when I take it. I decided to take Advil and it helped almost 100 percent. It literally felt like I didn’t even have my tonsils out. But, I was advised not to take Advil because it increases the risk of bleeding. Should I continue to take Advil or am I going to bleed to death???

    1. A question for your doctor or pharmacist. The ones I’ve talked with said it’s ok to take it. I didn’t after mine but I’ve read from lots of people who got relief from it.

  3. I got my tonsils removed August 24th so it’s the 6th day for me. The pain is so bad. I was put on ibuprofen and Tylenol I think? They prescribed me Morphine as well but I’m only 14 so my parents are concerned. The pain is unbearable. I can’t swallow my pills anymore, I can’t drink my water, I can’t eat anything, the pain is so bad I cry. I don’t know what to do anymore I don’t want to take my pills

    1. Hi Alyssa,

      Hang in there! Have your parents read this, it’s important. You ability to heal will be affcted by your level of pain. You were given the morphine by your doctors for that exact reason… need to take as little as you need to wipe out the pain. Because you have this acute pain you will NOT develop any addiction, just be careful and if you find any funny behaviors, excessive drowsiness or hallucinations (things you think are there but really aren’t, you’ll know it if you have any) cut it loose immediately! Lose the additional painkillers, especially the tylenol because the risk of overdosing is pretty high when you’re going through this. I used morphine for almost a month, although I doubt you’ll need it for more than a week or so… surgery involved grafts as it was needed for cancer. However, you should take it seriously as pain prevents you from getting well as fast as someone your age should be. There is nothing to fear about using the drugs your doctor prescribed for you, they’re at your disposal for good reason. The faster you get through recovery the better. I have no addiction, and didn’t have any lingering problems some three years later. Opiates are weird, if you need them they work flawlessly, and give you signals as to when to drop them. always use as little as possible, of course. Good luck, I’ll pray for your fast recovery! (Never hurts to!)

  4. I got my tonsils out august first, which makes today day 8. The amount of medicine I’ve been taking is no way good for my liver, but the pain has gotten so bad that I’ll cry, and scream which only hurts more. I wake up in the night and feel like I’m dying, actually I’d prefer if I would die so this pain would vanish. I’m nearly out of meds, I have a dosage of children’s ibuprofen (which I shouldn’t even be taking because I’m 16, but I’m running out of options here!) and a dosage of Motrin for adults. Both are pretty weak compared to the searing pain in my throat and ears. I had a liquid oxy type thing at the beginning but I’m already out of that too. I can’t get a refill for another three days and at 2 am (two nights in a row) I was begging to be brought to the hospital just to be told I couldn’t go because they couldn’t do anything for me.

    This is the absolute worst pain of my life, and my family is running out of money to provide me with even the weak children’s stuff.
    I’m not sure how I’m going to survive, i can’t eat or sleep.
    I was told I would be glad I got this surgery when I’m done healing but I find that hard to believe.
    Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, is worth this pain.

  5. Hello all, I had my tonsils removed yesterday and I just felt like sharing my story. I had to get them removed because of high protein in urine and the sinus specialist noted that I have chronic tonsillitis which I didn’t know about, I’m a 25-year old mother of two. My doctor prescribed me Xanax to take prior to the surgery and I was so glad because I wasn’t scared at all and everyone in the operating room commented how brave I was lol. They told me to come on an empty stomach and not drink anything and they took me for surgery around 11 a.m. They only did local anesthesia with the scariest looking long needles I have every seen but the Xanax helped me not to panic and they gave me a bowl to spit out the blood. They hacked away with a scalpel and then pulled them out with a strange looking tonsil instrument, that was the most uncomfortable part. When they took them out they said they’re going to use my tonsils as specimen for chronic tonsillitis because they looked terrible. After they stitched me up they gave me a cold pack to put around my neck. From there they gave me an I.V. in my post-op room and I was very thirsty but they wouldn’t give me any water because I had developed some type of infection and I refused to swallow my own spit so the nurse yelled at me and told me that I would end up on the operating table if I didn’t swallow my own spit. I still didn’t swallow my spit, they gave me some antibiotics intravenously. They came back around 6 P.M. with a cup of water and told me to drink it, maaaaan this first sip of water was the most excruciating pain I have EVER felt!!! and I had two natural births, they told me that the stitches were coagulating? I don’t have a clue what that means but I DO know it is hella painful. Second day they let me go at 8 am after briefing me to have a liquid diet they served me a breakfast of toast,,, really???,, needless to say I have yet to try solids,,,, I was the first one to leave and they didn’t give me any pain meds but they gave me antibiotics for the coagulation….. I’m just switching off on ibuprofen and paracetamol. I tried to find a forum to comfort myself about recovery process and finding this page did NOT help. I’ve been reading about people day 13 and in pain, I have two spirited boys one is two and the other one is three and I don’t know how I’m going to go half a month with this type of pain.. it’s a burning pain whenever I swallow…help pls…

    1. I just got my tonsils and adenoids out yesterday and I am having the same problem with swallowing my spit. When I first got home from the hospital
      I was gone because the meds they gave me there hadn’t fully worn off. I woke up about 3 am feeling as if I was choking on my spit. I was prescribed hydrocodone but all it’s really doing for me is putting me to sleep, it has not helped with my pain at all. How did you cope with swallowing spit and liquids. I need help. I don’t want to end up back in the hospital…

  6. I’m on Day 10 post op and have had excruciating pain throughout my recovery. Now that the scabs are healing I usually do okay during the day, but as evening and night roll around the pain is almost unmanageable. I’ve been taking the max recommended dose of ibuprofen to keep up with it all since my liquid hydrocodone ran out on Day 5. My doctor would not prescribe me any more even though I was in agony. I was given a 250 hydroco/apap solution 7.5-325, so about 10 mL every 4-6 hours. Is this about normal or should I complain to my doctor that the pain management he has limited me to is unreasonable? The ibuprofen doesn’t help a whole lot and I can’t sleep because of the pain. I’m absolutely exhausted and just want relief!

    1. Hi Chelsea, sorry to hear of your trouble. Doctors have the government breathing down their backs over the opioid epidemic, that’s why he’s reluctant to give you more opiate pain meds (5 days is nowhere near enough, except to the government whom, last I looked, didn’t have surgery). Since your primary problem is getting to sleep, what you need is something to numb your throat long enough to get to sleep.

      I had my right tonsil removed in 2013 because of cancer. After the surgery (which was far more than just a tonsilectomy) I had radiation treatments. During treatment it’s normal to prescribe a variety of painkillers, some of which are specifically for radiation’s effects. I was given this stuff called Magic Mouthwash, which is a compound of Maalox, lidocaine and Benedryl liquids. It numbs your throat up for up to a few hours. Most pharmacies can mix the stuff for you, but is prescription. It’s also nonnarcotic, and might just cover you for getting to sleep as you get through recovery. You probably won’t need much beyond a shot glass of it before you hit the sack. Run it by your MD and give it a whirl. What’s the worst that can happen?

      One more caveat with this stuff….you won’t be able to eat or drink after taking it most likely. Its pretty powerful, and will mess with swallowing. That’s not an issue for cancer patients (who get gastric tubes as you can’t eat for months after treatmen).

    2. Hi All/Chelsey-

      I had tonsillectomy procedure on the 1st @11am (post day 4.5). At 29 I am a veteran to surgeries, this is my sixth, (wisdom teeth/ deviated septum X2/ appendicitis/ R.Shoulder). I have a relatively low pain tolerance & very high drug tolerance (have always needed extra anesthesia for my surgeries & extra pain medication in recovery). When I awoke from surgery in the post op I was given a 2mg diluad (as I was in pain) and had ice pops/ice chips. After 30-45min of no effect (heart rate monitor around 95 steady the whole time) they gave me another diluad. Coming on 2 hours in the recovery (heart rate unchanged/ still in pain) they sent me off with 2, 300mg 7.5/325 hydrocodoen/acep (15-20ml dose) scripts and an anti-inflammatory (2 day dose – 1 every 48hr). Headed straight to the pharmacy and then home I took my first dose of 20ml at around 2pm. I find hydrocodoen to be very weak and was expecting for this surgery at least 10mg pain meds. I ran thru my 300ml 3 day supply in a day & a half. I called the doctor the morning of the 3rd requesting stronger medication noting my pain concerns. He gave me another script for the 300ml 7.5/300 and I still had another to be picked up on the 4th. After returning to the pharmacy and all the insurance BS I was fortunate to get 60ml of the 300 (which I desperately needed as I had only 2 doses left and would not last the night) from the empathetic pharmacist. She held the remaining 240 which I picked up the following day (4th). And I just picked up my remaining 300ml this morning. For your question of compliant… hell yeah. I was taking 20ml every 3-4 hours and getting anywhere from 1-4 hours sleep thus far per night. I have went thru 690ml of 7.5/325 in 84 hours since surgery. I have my follow up tommorw 9/6/17 & am sitting on 270mls at the moment. Obviously the worst times are during the night awaking in pain and in the morning with the dryness (before/after eating are trouble times too). Definitely get something stronger ASAP as the longer you wait the less your chances are.

  7. Hi, I really want to share my experience with you guys. This is my 13thday recovery of tonsillectomy. My doctor didn’t mention about the effects of the medication my medicine was Tramadol + Paracetamol Algesia 37.5MG/325MGTAB. This is my 3rd sleepless night. Yesterday was the worst I was crying AL DAY, I was too emotional, I feel like alone, I feel so lonely. This is the worst thing that ever happen to me. I will get back to my doctor tomorrow and will find out what is happening to me and will confirm if I’m really experiencing is normal and how to handle it.

  8. How can you get your medicine to work longer(stop the pain longer) before having to take more. Every four hours I have to take more cause it hurts and I haven’t been to school and i need it to work for 8 how can I make it last longer

  9. Hi, my name is Anisha. I am 32yrs old. I had my tonsillectomy done on the 30 September. This is day 18 post-op and i am still having pain (when swallowing, ear pain, pain over my left side of my face and head). I knew it was going to bad, but did not realise that it would be for so long. When will the pain go away? Cannot do this much longer…

  10. I actually used to work at a vets office while in nursing school. I’ve got like 10 bags of Iv fluid I got when my dog got sick. I can use it if need be . I could probably give myself my own Iv fluid if I had to. Trying to drink 3 liters of water a day at least. Have a humidifier. Honestly the cold liquid feels better than the lortab lol

  11. Hey Becky. Interesting story. You’re still in the honeymoon though. Stay on top of your hydration. Can you do your own IV fluids? That would be a Godsend!

    Thanks for posting. Best of health to you

  12. My perspective might be a little bit different I’m a nurse and a nurse anesthetist so I knew exactly what to expect. Surgery doesn’t scare me, it’s very safe ESP if young and healthy. Never had surgery before or never really had pain. I gave myself a fluid bolus as in I increased my own fluid rate while waiting and mixed my antibiotic that was hanging behind my bed. I can’t help it, it’s what I do. My surgeon was very fast so I was just trying to speed turnover times. Lol. I even tried helping by hooking myself up to the monitors, I tried to preoxygenate myself but my arms were already tied down. Took some deep breaths they slipped me some propofol and that’s all I remember.I got 4 ml of fentanyl during surgery which is normal. I woke up in the recovery room 30 min later and that was all the pain meds I got. I didn’t need any. My surgery was at 1045 I woke up at 1130. Didn’t take any liquid lortab till like 10 pm last night. I’m on day 2 tech post op day 1. It’s not terrible, no worse than strept throat. Lol. They gave me 7.5 mg in 15 mls. That shit would knock me out, so I just half my dose. I took a dose this morning and then this evening after I woke up from a nap. I think my throat got a little dry while napping. Don’t think I need this stuff every 4 hrs. Drinking water helps more than anything though. I’ll keep you guys updated. I’m trying to not take pain meds and see how bad it gets lol. I can’t rate it on a scale of 1-10 bc I don’t know what to compare it to other than a dislocated knee. Lol. I’m 32 by the way. I haven’t felt like I’m dying and this is horrible. So far so good 🙂

      1. You won’t if you get the strongest pain meds your doc is willing to give and take the least amount possible to relieve the pain. Healing goes faster and better if you follow this rule too, which means less pain over fewer days. I had a radical tonsillectomy for cancer in 2013, which is beyond the average surgery but the same rule applies regardless. Problem is, with the opiod epidemic a lot of people get shortchanged on meds. See if your doc will prescibe some lidocaine or what they call “magic mouthwash” which is compounded from Maalox, Benadryl and lidocaine. Although it will provide short-term relief, like what you’ll want to get to sleep as you heal several days out from surgery, it does interfere somewhat with swallowing (throat cancer patients get gastric tubes as you can’t swallow for months during treatment). If you use it carefully with the understanding that it’s best for ensuring rest and stay away from it otherwise, it may be helpful. Don’t let them give you the stuff with tylenol in it… want to have a liver left after recovery! You can always either add some tylonol or advil to the “heavy” stuff to help keep the dosage lighter. That depends on what your experience is. Most of all, listen to your body. It will guide you to the most important step…dropping the painkillers which you want to do as quickly as possible, while staying as pain free as possible.

  13. I had my tonsils out 6 days ago… my pain level goes up and down I was prescribed percocet the lowest miligram I have ben taking 2 at a time because the pain is so intense.. today is a very bad day I have been in bed all day crying because the pain is so so so bad I also have this barking cough that is not helping me at all I am almost out of pain meds and I am freaking out ; ( I called and left a message for my surgeon because I can’t imagine going without the pain meds! I have a very low tolerance to mouth and or throat pain and now I am panicking because I am almost out.. how long does this excruciating pain last? I am 30 and have already had to be jn the hospital over night do to the pain is there a better pain killer than percocet that last longer throughout the day? Will my doctor be sensitive to my needs and the pain I am in? Help any advise or anyone who has had the same problem would be greatly appreciated!

  14. I’m going into day 4 after my tonsillectomy and my pain Meds don’t last long enough. It’s Vicoden with Tylenol liquid and I am suppose to take it every 4 hours, but it doesn’t last more than 2 and 1/2 to 3 hours (getting shorter every time). I am so swollen, I almost choke every time I swallow. Called the doc today and told me to “suck it up.” Been crying and feeling pretty discouraged here.

  15. I have surgery scheduled in 2 days and I just got off the phone with the doctor who is doing the surgery. I wanted to discuss the pain meds recommended here and she plans on putting me on Lortab only. She refuses to give me any anti nausea drugs as she doesn’t think it is necessary and she has never heard of her patients requesting it. She is also reticent about giving me a steroid for swelling of the uvula. I feel like I am going to be completely unprepared for the recovery now despite my insisting she provide me those necessary medications. This has me completely stressed out before the surgery.

    1. Hey John – Don’t stress. Lortab should work fine. As for the inflammation, diligent icing can go a long way- that and a steady flow of cold liquid. Also, sleeping in a semi-upright position will help.
      Best of luck to you friend!

  16. I am going to need a tonsillectomy but pain is a concern because I will not be taking any narcotic pain medication after surgery. As a successfully recovering opioid addict, I will not get anywhere near narcotics or anything even close to it. What are some good methods for relieving post-op pain without any medication and just how severe is the pain?

    1. Hi Jenn. Congratulations on your success battling addiction. I won’t lie- tonsillectomy recovery hurts. A few things come to mind: liquid Tylenol- FOR SURE, ice- lots of ice cold fluids to gargle with and drink, a humidifier to keep the throat moist. You might also try Cepacol throat spray to numb and take the pain edge off. Here’s a link to some products that I either used, or had recommended to me here on the blog. Good luck!

  17. Hello all!

    So I had my tonsillectomy (coblation method) today 1/18/14, and I do have the narcotic with acetaminophen in it. However I have foung great relief by adding a childrens motrin (ibuprofen) to my pain mgt routine. I take one medicine every 2-3 hrs depending on the directions and I alternate meds. If I take the oxy at noon I’ll take the motrin at 2:30. Oxy at 4pm ibuprofen at 6:30pm. Has anyone ese had success with this?

    1. Ibuprofen is a blood thinning NSAID. That may aggravate bleeding (slows clotting) if you have a problem. You’ve got 10-14 days ahead where that’s a high risk. I’d recommend contacting your doctor for some low dose oxycodone without any added painkillers (like 5mls) so you can get the relief you need without worry about acetaminophen level worries. It’s just smarter to do so IMO. You can alternate the two is it works for you, or cut the dose a bit to where you get pain relief but still feel clear.

  18. I’ve got a question (I’m about 2 weeks pre-op) What about decongestants? Does anyone have any experience with what to use, does it help? I’ve always had a significant post-nasal drip (like beyond normal) and am wondering how this will impact recovery.

    Has anyone tried the lidocaine spray? (IIRC, it’s a script) I’m thinking it may be an alternative to narcotics and might be useful for days where there’s less pain. But I will reserve the right to all the morphine I feel I need. I just want to avoid it if the pain level’s doesn’t warrant it. If I can, if it does.

  19. Hindsight is 20/20 so here are my medication recommendations for people Pre-op since i’m now Post-op.
    Make sure to get liquid forms of your pain meds if possible. I ended up with liquid lortab with acetaminophen and liquid ibprophen. I stagger these every 2 hours and NEVER miss a dose…right now is not the time to see how much pain I can handle. I also recommend getting a nausea patch prescribed (like people get for cruises). They put it on me the day of surgery and it lasts 3 days. I was prescribed a dissolving nausea tablet as well and have only used it twice because the patch works so well
    My doctor called in a prescription for more of the nausea patches. Finally, I
    recommend getting a steroid prescribed pre-op because it will help your uvula to not swell as much…and trust me, it will swell.
    This online forum was crucial for my surgery prep so I just wanted to share some insights for others.

  20. My tonsillectomy is this coming Monday and I wondered SPECIFICALLY what prescribed medications will aid me the most in my recovery. I am very worried about naseua after the surgery from all the pain mediciations, especially about throwing up after surgery.
    Thank you so much in advance for the help and thanks for creating this great resource. This website has been invaluable in my preparation for surgery.

    1. Hi Liz- I would ask your doctor for an anti-nausea drug. I took promethezine(sp?) and it helped. Also making sure to take in some food with your meds will help. Best of luck to you my dear!

    2. I had my surgery yesterday at 215 and am on hydrocodone for pain..they gave me pills which I cannot swollow so I smash them up and it helps for about 3.5 hours n I drunk ice cold water n chew gum…i am going into day 2 of recovery tomorrow…so far things have been ok..i force myself to eat soft foods like pudding and mashed potatoes…homemade Mac n cheese…cold apple sauce…apple juice and I ice my throat for the swelling…i didn’t have any nausea after surgery at all…i got meds in my iv for pain fenanol er somethin like that and they have me nausea something that number my entire throat…my surgeon gave me 60 pain pills…he was a good surgeon…im nervous for the nxt few days of recovery but honestly ice water constantly is the key…all day and all night…keep ur throat moist and eat what u can as soon as u can…my ears hurt more than anything atm

  21. Hello – If anybody can give me any advice on the pain medication I would appreciate it. My surgery is next week, my doctor said he will prescribe me liquid Vicodin. Doing the math, I don’t see how a person can take the max amount daily and be still be covered all day long. It seems like after 12 hours a day you’ll hit the maximum Vicodin allowed because of the acetaminophen. So what am I supposed to do all night!? :-/

    What is a good pain medication I could ask for, that does not contain acetaminophen?


    1. BINGO! You are right on with this. I finally got a prescrip. for oxycodone without Tylenol. It was better for me all around- less anusea and no Tylenol worries- I could wean off it and transition to Tylenol

  22. Day 5 now I haven’t spoken at all today had toast and scrambled eggs for breakfast until I took 1 bite and it shot down my jaw to my ear put me off the whole thing, I have hardly drank anything the holes at the back now are filling with white stuff yuck makes me gag! Not to mention the itches I get deep in the holes makes me feel as if something is running around up there ….. Saliva is thick and I tell you what I have had sore throats every other week for past year and before that every 3-4 weeks even to the extent the infection from my throat run down my ear and busted my ear drum only 2 weeks ago I suffered a nose infection caused by my throat .. I have suffered with them but not doi once Ferber feeling howi do now this pain is a 9 on a 10 scale I’m on diclaflanc every 8 hours and paracetamol every 4 helps but now the pain has increased it don’t do so much for me I’m waking up a lot through the night checking the clock to see when I can next pop some more pills!!! Humidifier is on all night so I don’t no if it works because i have not been without it. I want to call my doctors now to get something stronger but today I have not spoken once and don’t intend to tramadol just makes my heart race and I have palpitations with them so I need something else I wish I never bothered I swear to god! I’m 24 by the way I just don’t no what else to do my partner goes back to work Monday and ill have my 2 year old back I can hardly get out of bed or speak ;(

  23. Love Percocet! 47 YO male here on day 6 post op. Feeling great! I was originally prescribed 20ml LORTAB (Vicodin) 7.5 liquid every 4 hours. Worked OK for pain, but not well enough to allow me to sleep longer than 1 hour at a time. 4 nights of that was enough. On day 5, I finally asked the DR for something that would let me sleep. Wife picked up the Endocet 7.5-325mg (Percocet) from pharmacy and after first dose I was able to sleep for 4 hours straight! Finally felt like I had turned the corner and today I feel awesome. Cut my dosage in half and spread it out to every 6 hours. Heading back to work tomorrow. I followed all the advice on this forum regarding hydration, prep, foods, etc. so thanks to all who post. To me, the single biggest thing is the meds and the ability to eat prior to taking them to avoid nausea.

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