Your surgeon will remove your gallbladder through small laparoscopic incisions or a larger open incision in your belly. It depends on your specific medical history, your general health, the reason for gallbladder removal, and the doctor you choose. Either way, gallbladder removal—cholecystectomy—is major surgery. You’ll have pain after surgery, but it's manageable. Pain after cholecystectomy is most significant at the beginning of your recovery and will lessen over time. Here are ways to manage pain after gallbladder surgery. Know your medication options. Different types of medicines can treat pain after gallbladder removal. This includes prescription-strength nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and opioid painkillers like codeine, hydrocodone and morphine. Opioids are very effective for pain relief, but they can also cause nausea and constipation. Over-the-counter pain medicines are available as well. They include acetaminophen (Tylenol) and NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil and Motrin). Ask your doctor which pain medicines are right for you during your recovery. Ask about other options if you are not feeling enough relief or if side effects bother you. Knowing what to expect may help you feel better. Take pain medicines on schedule. The key to pain management is to take your pain medicine as prescribed and on a regular schedule (for example, one tablet every 4 to 6 hours). It takes time for pain medicine to begin to work. If you miss a dose, you may experience greater pain while you wait for the medicine to take effect. As a general rule, it’s easier to prevent pain from getting worse than it is to treat pain once it’s bad. Write down when you take your pain medicine so you know when you should take the next dose. Move around, but take it slow and easy. Gentle exercise like short walks and mild stretches will get your adrenaline going and keep your muscles and joints from becoming stiff. Follow your doctor’s instructions about limiting heavy lifting and vigorous exercise. If you over-exert your abdominal muscles before they are healed, you may prolong your gallbladder surgery recovery time. Keep ice packs and pillows handy to stay comfortable. Baby your body during this uncomfortable time. Recline instead of sitting up to prevent pressure on your abdomen. Wear loose stretchy pants, shirts, gowns, or robes. Use a soft-sided, reusable ice pack to cool your abdominal incision area. Try to rest as much as possible to help your body heal itself. Remember when you cough, sneeze or laugh to splint your belly with a pillow. To do this, place a pillow over your abdomen and apply gentle pressure on your belly. This will support your abdominal muscles during periods of straining. You can use this technique to turn over in bed, sit up, or stand up. Be patient with yourself. Pain levels after gallbladder removal vary from person to person and with the different types of surgery—laparoscopic or open. And you may be more tired than you expect. You may feel better one day and slightly worse the next, especially if you over-exert yourself. Keep in mind that you will recover on your own timeline and your pain will eventually completely fade away.