Continuing medical education event in Steamboat takes a different look at pain management

“Prescribing for Pain Today” will take place 5 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Steamboat Springs.
File photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Aimed at bringing more awareness to the “upstream” side of prescribing pain medication, a continuing medical education event on Thursday, May 16, will explore ways to avoid opioid addiction.

There now is significant attention and resources put toward treating opioid addiction, said Mara Rhodes, the community prevention coordinator for The Health Partnership serving Northwest Colorado.

But Rhodes sees a need for more information on preventing the need to treat addiction from happening in the first place.

There are other ways to treat chronic and acute pain and different ways of understanding pain, Rhodes said. Prescribing more medication to treat addiction to medication is one approach, she explained, and Medically Assisted Treatment, which also incorporates counseling and behavioral therapies, can be truly “wonderful” in treating addiction.

But there are other options, and there are ways to lower risks on the front end to keep addiction from starting in the first place.

According to Rhodes, there are non-addictive and non-narcotic pain treatments, and the behavioral health component can also play a big part in addiction. There’s physical therapy and a “multimodal” approach to physical therapy, also.

According to Practical Pain Management, “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy shown to improve patients’ perception of pain, self-efficacy, sleep and overall quality of life. While CBT may not be a panacea for all patients, it could be an aspect of treatment that physical therapists have overlooked when they’ve assessed chronic pain patients from strictly a biomechanical perspective.”

Rhodes is quick to emphasize that she is not a medical expert. But she lost her brother to the opioid crisis and is passionate about bringing together professionals who can share their expertise and knowledge. And she is passionate about bringing more educational opportunities to the medical community in Northwest Colorado.

If you go

What: Prescribing for Pain Today
When: Dinner is 5 to 5:30 p.m.; talks are 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16
Where: Hampton Inn & Suites, 725 S. Lincoln Ave.

These passions led to the “Prescribing for Pain Today” dinner and presentations, taking place 5 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Steamboat Springs.

The line up of speakers covers a wide range of backgrounds and philosophies.

Dr. Brent Van Dorsten, president of the Colorado Pain Society, will give a presentation on “Behavioral Factors Influencing the Transition from Acute to Chronic Pain: Implications for Long Term Use.”

Van Dorsten, according to his biography, “provides cognitive-behavioral assessments and treatments to a diverse patient population referred by physician specialists in Anesthesiology Pain Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Orthopedic/Spine, Primary Care, Neurology and OBGYN, among others.” And, he “has gained wide professional acclaim for his ability to analyze common patient management challenges into practical treatment solutions.”

Joletta Belton will give a talk titled, “Why do I hurt? Pain Science and Patient Empowerment.” She gives presentations around the world and has a Master of Science degree in human movement.

Her story is a personal one.

On her blog,, Belton details an injury that led to chronic pain and the end of her career as a firefighter. Belton writes, “I’d spent so long fighting pain, battling pain, trying to be rid of pain, that pain had become everything. By focusing all of my energies on the pain, pain became the center of my universe. I became pain. Pain defined me, controlled me. Defeated me.”

It isn’t an easy path, Belton writes, but there is hope. “We are fantastically awesome beings, incredibly adaptable, strong, resilient and capable. And we have the power to do so much for our pain and for ourselves … I realized the key to changing my pain was to turn up the rhythms of life and turn down the noise and discordance of pain.

Other speakers include Dr. Christopher Urbina, who will talk about  “Clinical Pearls for Safe Opioid Prescribing” and Dr. Jonathan Clapp, who will present on “Non-Opioid Pain Management.”

Pain is complicated, Rhodes acknowledges. And there is a connection between physical pain, the mind and emotional pain. Different people react differently to pain, Rhodes said, but it doesn’t mean one person is stronger than another. Every individual has a unique chemistry, and pain doesn’t affect everyone the same way or to the same degree.

When the opioid crisis took hold, it was striking to see how effective the narcotics are at also numbing emotional pain, Rhodes noted, which frequently accompanies physical pain.

Treating addiction is a very important piece of the opioid crisis, Rhodes said. But there needs to be a cultural shift and more focus put on preventing the addiction.

“The premise behind this one night event is to encourage a new way of thinking in our medical world to better and more safely handle both acute and chronic pain.”

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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