“Our practices do not replace medicine”: the boom in alternative therapies
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“Our practices do not replace medicine”: the boom in alternative therapies

57% of French people consider that alternative therapies are as effective as traditional medicine.
The techniques are varied, but all bring well-being and relieve pain.
However, we must be vigilant in the face of the sectarian excesses of certain professionals.

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Good in his body, good in his head

Acupuncture, naturopathy, sophrology… The French are turning more and more towards “alternative medicine”. 57% of them consider that alternative therapies are, generally speaking, at least as effective as traditional medicine, according to a recent Odoxa survey. They use therapies linked to manual manipulation (51%), plants (45%) and energies (39%) but also the search for psychological causes (26%), spirituality (25%) and food (18%).

The causes of this craze are multiple. According to the study, the French turn to these practices because they have difficulty obtaining appointments with doctors (58%). Also, “since covid, there has been a climate of distrust towards science”, analyzes Pascal Charbonnel, general practitioner. “They are disappointed not to have found an answer in traditional medicine”, adds Adriana Dinu, acupuncturist. This is what pushed Federica Petti to become a naturopath. “I am gluten intolerant and no doctor has ever been able to give me a diet that could be adapted to my problem”she says.

But it is also for more personal reasons. “They are stressed by their private or professional life, they have received a hard blow in life or they are starting to become dependent on certain medications”, explains Federica Petti. This recognizes that there is “like yoga, a fad. There is no shame in saying it.”

Individualized monitoring

The main function of alternative therapies is to provide well-being and relieve pain, through natural methods (vibrations, massages, etc.). They constitute “a good instrument for feeling tensions”, assures the naturopath. They are also characterized by individualized care. “Every person is a puzzle. Sometimes there are the same symptoms, but the source of the problem is different”explains the acupuncturist. “Just because practices do good doesn’t mean they should be applied to everyone in the same way”, continues Federica Petti. With the energy assessment (acupuncture) or the history (naturopathy), the professionals adapt to the person.

Also, these practices provide tools and guide people to “that they are more attentive to the messages from their body and that they reappropriate it, this encourages them to be even more protagonists of their health”, specifies the naturopath. Sometimes this involves simple lifestyle changes (diet, sport). But there are often “received ideas” on these practices. “Many think that they act like a magic wand and that there is no effort requiredshe declares. The results are not seen overnight, but after a few months. It takes patience to achieve and feel changes.” Professionals agree, in any case, on one point. “The reference is the patients. We can only base ourselves on their feedback and they report good results. If they no longer have pain, that is enough for me”says Adriana Dinu.

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Beware of sectarian excesses

Although their influence is growing, alternative therapies nevertheless still give rise to reservations, particularly among the scientific community. “Medicine is one and universal. We cannot call these practices “medicines”, because they are not scientifically recognized. In the same way as sport or sea bathing, these are treatments of well-being, comfort and cocooning”, recalls Pascal Charbonnel. 61% of French people would not seek alternative therapy when faced with unknown symptoms, according to the study.

The general practitioner also points out a significant problem: sectarian aberrations. “Some exercise control and allow themselves to make patients give up their care, to the point of death…”, he warns. Thus, according to the study, 81% consider that the State must better regulate and supervise the activity of practitioners in alternative therapies. And this is what the government has promoted with a bill aimed at strengthening the fight against sectarian abuses and improving support for victims, in particular “protect against risks and dangers in the field of health”. “It is a useful law, I welcome the measure to create a new offense of provocation to abandonment of care”, enthuses Pascal Charbonnel. The text will be examined for a new reading in the National Assembly then in the Senate on March 19 and April 2 respectively.

Faced with this observation, professionals reaffirm the complementarity of their alternative therapies with traditional medicine. “Our practices do not replace medicine”certifies Adriana Dinu. “We are not doctors, we do not make a diagnosis and besides, we are talking about clients and not patients. We are complementary to traditional medicine and I try to get in touch with doctors as much as possible”, explains Federica Petti. Often, people who turn to these practices already have symptoms, pain, or even illnesses in more or less advanced stages. “These gentle therapies should become preventions, when the pathology is not yet there, because in the West, we have too much tendency to wait for the pain”concludes Federica Petti.


Emma FORTON

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