Abstract This study aimed to describe the perspectives of surgical patients towards postoperative pain management during their hospital stay. Thirty strategically chosen postoperative inpatients from different surgical wards in a university hospital in Sweden participated. A qualitative, descriptive approach using individual interviews was chosen. These were tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed according to a qualitative content analysis. The patients' descriptions of postoperative pain management indicated that pain was a symptom that was always in focus, either because it was constantly present or because pain could appear abruptly during different activities and movements. Although the focus was on pain and an awareness that it should be relieved or avoided, the solutions were often routine, short-term, and involved the regular intake of drugs, plus additional medication if needed for an acute pain episode. From the patients' descriptions of their experience with postoperative pain management, we distinguished three categories: “patients' pain knowledge”, “patients' pain management approaches”, and “patients' views of health-care professionals”. The findings from this study highlight important aspects of nursing care that should receive greater attention in postoperative pain management. The patients' narratives could be a valuable asset in the quality improvement of postoperative pain management as these narratives highlight episodes difficult to elicit in other ways.