The opioid epidemic is so bad, there’s a whole cottage industry in treating addiction. Patients and doctors everywhere are searching for alternatives to manage serious pain. Physical therapist Eileen Kopsaftis has developed a drug-free strategy that’s gaining traction it attacks the source of pain rather than medicating it.
Sharyl: What’s your view of where we are with opiate use in the United States today?
Eileen Kopsaftis: I believe that it's completely overprescribed. I get very upset when I have patients come in to see me who oftentimes were prescribed it prior to any other option given. I’ve had patients who because the pain wasn't resolving quickly enough, they would prescribe the opioids and they just weren't informed of the risks. They weren't informed of how dangerous they could be.
Sharyl: If opioids are very effective for pain, why is it a problem that they are used or overused?
Eileen Kopsaftis: Well, I think people are misinformed about how effective they are. The data shows that combining Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen together is actually more effective in pain relief than opioids. So the first thing is the people that need to be better educated, including the medical profession. Opioids are not that effective with pain. A lot of the people that I see who are actually consuming opioids are still having pain.
Sharyl: Why did you decide there was a need to develop a new pain control alternative?
Eileen Kopsaftis: Well, the opioids aren't working. They're destroying people's lives. I attend the opioid coalition every other month in my, my area, and it's a problem that's, it's not being resolved. People's lives are completely destroyed by it and we need to be addressing pain in a way that works in a way that has more benefit than risk.
Sharyl: Is there such a thing that has no potential harm and only benefit?
Eileen Kopsaftis: Yes. A lot of the things that I do with my patients have no potential harm.
Sharyl: You are held out as someone who's developed a technique or some techniques that help control pain very effectively for some patients without drugs.
Eileen Kopsaftis: Yes.
Sharyl: What is this?
Eileen Kopsaftis: There's, there's four areas that I address. Nutrition being first and foremost, how the person is eating is very important. Another area is a connected tissue health. And then the other two legs that I use, I think of a four legged stool is, people need to learn how to move in a way that the body was designed to move. And then another aspect that I address is something that’s about the balance in the body. If you have one body part not working well, and then the opposite body part is working well. No matter what you do throughout the day, your body is going to compensate, it's going to alter how it's functioning in a way that will damage other structures, so it's important for people to balance themselves.
Sharyl: Why do you think there's so many pain issues in our society today? Was it always that way and we just didn't know about it? Or is there more pain?
Eileen Kopsaftis: I think there's a lot more pain. I think a lot of it is diet related. I see it all the time. That is the first thing I see people talk about and report when they changed their diet is that their pain is radically improved or eliminated.
Sharyl: What is the takeaway thought you could leave people with?
Eileen Kopsaftis: That they really need to take control. They need to be asking questions. They need to learn the risks and the benefits of things. I have so many people come into me who were advised to have injections and procedures and different things and they wish that they knew then what they know now they would never have agreed because they're dealing with the fallout for years. So it's very important to be educated and you don't need to be a medical expert to ask questions. What are the benefits? What are the risks? And and demand the answers.
Kopsaftis trains colleagues in her pain management strategy and it’s drawing interest from insurance providers as they look for ways to help patients and reduce costs.