by John Adamian
Eileen Kopsaftis doesn’t think we should simply accept the idea that our bodies stop working as we get older. In her view, limited mobility and physical pain are not necessarily inescapable parts of aging. Kopsaftis is a health specialist, author, and educator devoted to helping people move without pain and experience physical wellbeing. She employs manual techniques, nutrition, and a host of other methods to assist people.
Many of her consultations have involved Zoom meetings since before the pandemic, so she’s been comfortable utilizing online video conferencing for years to help people eliminate avoidable physical pain in their daily lives. With a series of classes at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, a new book (Pain Culprits!), published at the end of last year), and a website Have Life Long Wellbeing that offers both free and subscription-based services, exercises, and assessments, Kopsaftis brings a wide-ranging approach to the problem of pain.
The ancient Greeks knew that life loses much of its point and pleasure for people beset by physical suffering. As the early anatomist, Herophilus wrote, ”When health is absent, wisdom is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be applied.”
For many of us, our 50s bring new twinges, cramps, aches, pressures, sensitivities, and tensions in our feet, shoulders, knees, hips, backs, and elbows — you name it. A stoical attitude toward physical decline encourages sufferers to suffer quietly instead of working to change behavior, adjust our posture, align our movements, stretch, or alter our diets.
Kopsaftis wants people to know they don’t need to be in pain. “We are not designed to fall apart,” she says. And sometimes the solutions are simple.
“My goal is to erase pain from the world,
and that is my passion.”
Her path to helping people live pain-free started with a childhood interest in being a doctor, a growing sense that traditional medicinal treatments were not always ideal, and a hunch that diet could have a significant role in health.
“Every person is unique and individual,” says Kopsaftis. “Everybody is like a puzzle.” Solving the pain puzzle involves helping the sufferer to get in touch with their body to think about what the cause of the pain might be. A slicing ache in the shoulder doesn’t necessarily mean that the origin of the problem is in that exact area. If your hips or ankles aren’t aligned properly, for instance, muscles in other parts of your neck or your back might compensate, creating strain and pain away from the actual source of the trouble.
“When you start training your body and you start treating your body, you see immediate results,” says Kopsaftis.
Depending on the specific case, Kopsaftis can approach the particular issue from a number of different angles. Within the scope of her healing practice, she lists over a dozen techniques and methods, including Muscle Energy, Mulligan’s Mobilization with Movement, Strain and Counterstrain, neuofascial release, craniosacral therapy, spinal stabilization, the MELT Method and more. Some of these techniques focus on tensions and pressure in and around bones and muscles. In many cases, dietary adjustments can also reduce inflammation that leads to pain and reduced mobility. Kopsaftis routinely begins an assessment by asking for a five-day food diary so she knows everything that someone has ingested.
It’s a holistic approach. “Everything is connected to everything else,” is the title of one of Kopsaftis’s videos on her site, designed to help individuals zero in on what she calls their “pain culprits.”
In addition to the dietary questions, Kopsaftis also investigates the state of a patient’s mobility with regard to the three core planes of anatomical motion. Restoring these three core planes of motion is one of Kopsaftis’s first modes of inquiry. She’s enthusiastic about the MELT method, which helps the individual undo the accumulated pressures and tensions of daily living, with the help of padded mats and rollers that approximate some of the effects of more hands-on osteopathic treatments.
Many of us have grown to expect a doctor to give us medicine to solve physical problems. But Kopsaftis’s approach is rooted in the idea that a little bit of gentle action, motion, and change is the key. In other words, when we take part in addressing our health and wellbeing, the results are generally better.