My 28-year-old daughter had her gallbladder removed three years ago. She’s had terrible pain in her side ever since. No one seems to know how to help her. What do you suggest?

The problem of chronic pain has not been solved yet. At this point, health care professionals recognize long-term pain as a disabling disease in itself. And it’s one that deserves a closer look.

In fact, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) is calling for a greater dedication to pain research and more money to fund it. There is a need to support researchers as they help find better ways to treat chronic pain,

Experts in pain management want to see new pain medications and therapies for the patients suffering this disease. They are advocating for training and education for physicians. And leaders of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) are asking for better reimbursement for health care professionals who spend the time to really understand and care for these patients.

That kind of time and dedication would help physicians find a management plan that could work for patients like your daughter. pain management needs a face lift. Physicians are often overly cautious when it comes to using narcotic (opioid) pain medications for fear their patients will become addicts. There are plenty of studies to show that opioids are safe and effective. They do require appropriate monitoring but they shouldn’t be withheld out of fear and ignorance.

Your daughter may need a a team approach to pain management using the skills and abilities of several health care professionals who are experts in the management of chronic pain. This could include a nutritionist, counselor or psychologist, physical therapist, and/or nurse. Alternative practitioners skilled in massage, Reiki, acupuncture, BodyTalk, or similar disciplines can also lend a hand.

The first place to start is often with the person’s primary care physician. He or she can effectively care for many of the chronic pain patients. Not everyone needs a full-blown, multidisciplinary team approach. But when patients don’t get the help they need and especially in very complex, complicated cases, then referral can be made to a pain specialist or team of professionals at a pain clinic.

Your daughter may be at that point in her life. She should sit down with her physician and review her history, her symptoms, her quality of life, and her goals. They can discuss what has been tried so far and what other options are yet to be considered.

Sometimes it takes a while to find the right treatment or combination of approaches that best support each patient during this recovery process. For many people, pain control becomes a matter of improving function without actually changing the frequency, intensity, or location of the painful symptoms.

Along with the Institute of Medicine, we hope that more funding will be devoted to the study of chronic pain. Researchers need to develop better drugs and better management techniques for chronic pain patients.

Finding factors that would predict who will respond to what medications and approaches is another area for scientific study. It’s time to lget to the bottom on effective treatment for chronic pain and deal with the complexities these patients often present. Such an approach will require the coordinated efforts of private, public, and governmental agencies.