Report: More than 100 million suffer lasting pain

By LAURAN NEERGAARD | June 29, 2011 | 11:15 AM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new report finds at least 116 million U.S. adults experience long-lasting pain — the kind that lingers for weeks to months. Too often, they feel stigma rather than relief from a health care system poorly prepared to treat them.

The Institute of Medicine report shows chronic pain costs the nation even more than heart disease in medical bills, sick days and lost productivity.

The report calls effective pain management a moral imperative, and urges a series of steps to transform the field.

Barriers include health workers not properly trained to handle pain, and insurance that doesn't cover complex care. Law enforcement's fight against abuse of narcotic painkillers plays a role, too, but the report found that those medicines are safe and effective for the right patient.