I just had a total done 4 days ago - thurs, oct. 8. It was definitely sore the first couple days, but the worse was about 12 hours after surgery in my hospital room. I had to ask for more morphine to help me sleep. The majority of pain I've experienced has been simple swallowing. The dr said because of the tube during surgery. It hurt to swallow water! Getting anything done was a real challenge while at the hospital.
However, by the third day home (today) I've been able to eat normal foods. And the incision itself doesn't really hurt that bad. It's sore if you bump it (which I have accidentally done about 12 times), but it doesn't ache or anything. But just a warning - sneezing SUCKS. If you have allergies be sure to dust the crap out of your room before coming back from surgery!!!! I live in a ground floor apartment in nyc, and people smoke outside of the building....and smoke makes me sneeze - OUCH!
That said, I took ONE vicatin the day I got home, and then it made me throw up. I haven't taken any pain meds since. Well, I took 2 extra strength tylenol because i had a headache. Nothing to do with the incision.
The majority of my discomfort was from the anesthesia (like another person reported). When they moved me in my bed from recovery to the room for my overnight stay, I immediately started puking. And it hurt pretty bad. I was crying. But the next day I was smiling and happy to leave the hospital - and within 2 days I could swallow food without wincing.
Good luck! While the hospital part sucked a little, it was still an adventure. I felt lucky that I had ONLY had thyroid surgery as I was drifting in and out in the recovery room and hearing the doctors recite what the poor recovering patients around me had just had done! And the at-home recovery is going better than I had expected.