If you have arthritis, arteritis, bronchitis, bursitis, endometriosis, laryngitis, osteoporosis, rhinitis, sinusitis, tendonitis, diabetes, Parkinson’s syndrome, Raynaud’s disease , multiple sclerosis, asthma, sciatica, kidney stones, sore throat, dizziness, cramps, migraine, high blood pressure, palpitations, ear pain, vaginal dryness, dysmenorrhea, itching, bloating, gout, obesity, gum disease, psoriasis ailments, acne, eczema, frostbite, hives, rosacea, stretch marks, varicose veins, depression, etc., and you happen to be living in France, you go to the doctor and you can get a prescription for spa treatments. If you don’t have these conditions, you can also say you’re stressed or want to quit smoking. There are a total of 113 qualified spas in France, and a prescription means your doctor approves you to go to one of them. Then, you fill out a simple application form, attach a prescription, and give it to the staff of the national health system. In the vast majority of cases, the application will be approved, and you can set off for the hot springs upon notification.
In 1947, the French government incorporated spa therapy into the social security system, stating that every citizen has the right to receive spa therapy in case of physical need. A course of 21 days, 3 consecutive weeks, Monday to Saturday treatment, rest on Sunday, the treatment mainly relies on the mineral water, mineral mud and steam of the hot spring. In 2019, a total of about 600,000 French patients went to the spa for treatment, and the state can reimburse 65% of the cost. In addition, 3 million tourists visit the spa at their own expense.
Jean-Baptiste Lemoirne, France’s secretary of state for tourism, called the spas “the jewels of French tourism” and “an incomparable treasure that allows the French to learn to take care of themselves and to rediscover the beauty of their homeland.” Good mountains and water.” Most wellness centers are located within natural or cultural landscapes, such as mountains, lakes, and tourist towns with bands and casinos. The taste of spring water is somewhat similar to that of rotten eggs. Spring water contains a variety of trace elements that are beneficial to the human body, which is why many well-known French brands are inspired by spring water, such as Evian mineral water, La Roche-Posay, Yiquan, Avène cosmetics, and Vichy candies.
Many French writers were regulars at spas, such as Chateaubriand, Balzac and Proust. Flaubert’s health regimen is to take a cold bath and five glasses of mineral water a day. The same is true for French presidents: in the 1920s, then-President Alexander Millerand went to the spa to recuperate in order to recover from the exhaustion of the war; Georges Pompidou in the 1970s also recuperated for a while . Niger’s first president, Hamani Diori, was also a fan of spa treatments. President Charles de Gaulle’s son once met Dior in a hotel restaurant. According to his recollection, Dior’s assistants would serve mineral water at the stipulated time, and there were scales on the cup.
The current French president, Emmanuel Macron, is very close to his grandmother, who lives in the French spa resort of Bagner-de-Bigorre. Macron’s mother retired as a medical consultant to the French healthcare system, specializing in spa treatments. Thierry Dubois, chairman of the spa committee, said that “the mother’s perception of spa therapy naturally affects the son” and Macron was “very supportive of spa therapy”.
| Sea bathing at your own expense |
There are two main types of hydrotherapy in France: thermal baths and thalassotherapy. The latter, as the name suggests, uses salt water from the sea. It is believed that the characteristics of seawater vary from place to place. One article on thalassotherapy claimed that the waters of the English Channel “enjoy life”, the waters of the South Atlantic coast “nurture the mind and body”, and the waters of the Mediterranean “relieve tense nerves”.
In the past, the French social security system covered sea bathing, but in 1998, the government characterized sea bathing as health preservation, rather than medical treatment, and social security no longer covers sea bathing. As a result, 53 thalassotherapy centers in France have become private enterprises. On the basis of continuing the medical atmosphere of the sanatorium, they have built the center into a higher-end leisure place. In recent years, 1.5 million tourists visit the thalassotherapy center for vacation every year. Not long ago, the super popular French pop star Clara Luciani took a promotional photo: she stood on a balcony with white columns, braided, wearing sunglasses, wearing a white fluffy bathrobe. The photo, taken at the Grande Hotel in Saint Malo, was accompanied by the slogan “Like a newborn”.
There are many similarities between spa and thalassotherapy, but when I chatted with spa industry insider Eleonore Gellar, I could sense the gunpowder between the two forces. She said: “Thai bathing is not a medical treatment. It sells its own soul and becomes a pastime. I think it is a pity.”
Red wine and cheese are inextricably linked to the place of origin, as is hydrotherapy. France is the most visited country in the world for tourists, and for the French, hydrotherapy gives them access to some of the country’s most distinctive sights. As Marie Siscar, president of the French Thalassotherapy Union, said: “Just a few days of sea bathing will make you feel different scenery, just like going abroad.” Foreign tourists go to France to see the Eiffel Tower and the Loire. River Valley Castle, the French go to sea baths or hot springs to enjoy a quiet and peaceful life. They live in a wellness center, and their daily schedule consists of eating in restaurants with great views, exercising in moderation, and lounging in bathrobes. Jean-Laurent Cassley, co-author of France as we see it, said: “French regionalism, the pursuit of wellness and Wes Anderson-esque aesthetics have come together to create the French style of spa therapy. local tourism phenomenon.”
| I have a date with Mud |
When I visited the Vichy Celestine Thermal Spa, the director, Florence Schaeffer, served me with grilled prawns and Condério white wine in the restaurant, with a stunning natural view out the window. “Aren’t you claustrophobic?” she asked me. She asked this because I wanted to experience volcanic mud in the afternoon. The staff would heat the mud to 41 degrees and apply it to my back, arms, feet, and joints. The mud comes from a nearby town and needs to be soaked in Vichy’s spring for a month before cyanobacteria grow on the surface before it can be put into use. The small town of Vichy has been offering this therapy since 1935. The idea behind it is that the trace elements in the slime can pass through the skin and enter the body for the benefit of the body. Calcium is said to have anti-inflammatory properties, and sodium is said to ease digestive ailments. This therapy claims to relax the mind and body and promote blood circulation.
A few hours later, I arrived at the designated place at the appointed time. The building in the center can be seen in Byzantine and Art Nouveau styles, with a gold and blue dome on the top of the building, and ceramic murals of mermaids and water gods on the walls. After registering my personal information, I walked into the dressing room to change into my bathrobe, and headed straight for the treatment room No. 131.
I was a little nervous, and a postcard from 1913 came to my mind: a female customer lying on a platform, wearing baggy panties, being massaged by two technicians, with several metal nozzles spraying water on her. There is also a display screen in the hallway showing a medical device invented by Swedish plastic surgeon Zander in the mid-19th century to lengthen the arms and stretch the spine. Zander’s method is called “mechanotherapy,” and he also designed a stomach massage chair to relieve constipation.
Still, there was a sense of relaxation as I walked down the wide hallway, looking at the tiles on either side and the sunlight coming in. The vibe is reminiscent of a Sofia Coppola movie, not a Wes Anderson one. The windows were open, and the spring breeze would blow in from time to time. There are also many rattan armchairs in the hallway, which can satisfy everyone’s rest needs.
Foreign tourists go to France to see the Eiffel Tower and Loire Valley castles, while French people go to sea baths or hot springs to enjoy a quiet and peaceful life.
I was two minutes late. “You’re here.” The technician looked at his watch with dissatisfaction after seeing me. She made me undress and by the end the only thing left on me was the disposable thong provided by the center. There was a plastic sheet on the table in the house. After I sat down, she didn’t say much, just wiped the hot yellow-brown mud on my back and joints. After wiping, she put me down on my side, then wrapped the plastic wrap around me, and I felt like my shape was a bit like a hot dog.
”Okay, see you later.” She closed the door and went out.
| Can drinking water also cure diseases? |
On my second day at Vichy Thermal Spa, I visited the drinking hall, which offers spring water at five temperatures, 22, 27, 34, 39 and 43 degrees. The hall is jointly built by architects and master blacksmiths. Arches, tinted glass skylights and other designs make the hall look atmospheric and beautiful. Only convalescents whose prescriptions indicate water therapy are eligible to drink water in the drinking hall. In the past, there were waiters who were responsible for fetching water in the drinking hall, but that was the old calendar. Now, there are vending machines selling paper cups and several self-service faucets. The gurgling sound of water in the hall reminds people of the sound of meditation software.
I met a convalescent named Natalie Legro in the lobby. The doctor ordered her to drink six glasses of 43-degree spring water a day, three in the morning and three in the afternoon. She took a glass and poured water into an empty bottle. “I cheated. I put the water in the refrigerator to cool down and drink it every time. I should drink it directly.” She laughed loudly, “I’m too careless!” I also took a cup and tasted it. The smell of rotten eggs and cabbage soup. By the way, and the smell of chalk, I feel like I’m licking the blackboard.
The brochure states that Vichy’s “every spring has a unique style and character”, with sodium bicarbonate for digestion, silicon for anti-inflammatory properties, and lithium for mood-smoothing and skin-improving properties. Honestly, though, I think drinking 500ml of spring water at 3pm every day is about the same as a baby’s regular milk. When we enter the hall, we not only enter the aesthetic atmosphere created by the architect, but also emotionally return to the past, we return to the good times, and we adults are once again the newborn babies who need to be taken care of.
Legro is a human resources consultant who lives in the Paris suburbs. She was a former rugby player and won a championship. She used to be in great shape, but now in her early 50s, she has gained weight and has problems with her digestive system. Two years ago, as soon as she ate an enema, she felt someone strangle her neck and couldn’t breathe. One of her relatives, who had cured her digestive ailment with water therapy, highly recommended that she try it, and she came.
Although the state can reimburse part of Legro’s treatment, she still pays 1,500 euros for meals, accommodation, entertainment, additional treatment and other items. “I love this process of self-medication,” she told me. During her convalescence, she gets up at 6 o’clock every day and goes for a walk by the river in her spare time. She felt refreshed here: “I really enjoy the relaxation. Before I came, I was out of breath every time I ate, and I couldn’t eat without a few Anno, but not in the next few weeks. “She also has colon cleansing in her schedule, which is one of Vichy’s signature treatments. “I might be vulgar to say that, but it’s literally pouring Vichy water down your ass!” she said.
| The unshakable status of spa therapy in France |
Dr. Yasmin Bertin took out a piece of paper with the outline of the human body, and she drew crosses on the shoulders, neck, waist and back according to my condition: “This is our trump card therapy, the water is warm , has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and muscle-relaxing properties.” Bertin, in his 40s, has a sleek, bob haircut and pearl earrings. In 2018, she changed her research focus from infectious diseases to spa therapy. At the time, she was on maternity leave in Paris and decided to go to Vichy for a week of recuperation. “I fell in love with spa therapy,” she recalls. “Before I knew it, a voice inside me: ‘Spa therapy is great, this is my profession.'”
There are 850 spa doctors in France . , some of them studied in medical school for nine years, and then specialized in hot spring therapy for one or two years before they obtained the corresponding qualifications. During the recuperation period, each convalescent person should see a spa doctor three times in total: once on the first day, to determine the treatment items; once in the middle, for a routine examination; once at the end of the course of treatment, to evaluate the effect of the course of treatment. Bertin said: “The convalescents come with casebooks. Some cases are a few pages of paper, and some can fill a suitcase.” The doctor will tailor the treatment program according to the condition of the convalescent.
Many countries have hot spring therapy, but the method of operation is different. For a long time, there have been doubts about spa therapy, but the legality of spa therapy is basically undisputed in France. To a certain extent, this is related to cultural traditions. Take the United Kingdom and the United States, for example, where spa therapy is “a tourist attraction in a good way, and a swindle in a bad way.” But France is different. Since the 17th century, French spas have been inextricably linked with the government and medical institutions.
| Does spa therapy work? |
When I visited the Vichy Spa, a young technician used equipment to test my body for minerals, vitamins, trace elements, oxidative stress, heavy metals and other indicators. The instrument is only the size of a stapler. She pointed the sensor head of the instrument at the end of my palm. A minute later, my test results came out, a total of four pages, which listed my physical conditions in detail, including Selenium in my body and the health of my hair. My emotional health is okay, but I’m a little off with my body shape, and the tech says I’m at risk for three types of subcutaneous cellulite. She looked at me surprised and quickly added: “It doesn’t matter, this indicator is not important.” The
French parliament had arranged for an inspector to evaluate spa therapy, and in 2000, he submitted a report saying that spa therapy is ” A neglected, cluttered, poorly understood field with outdated frameworks and controversial medical value.” In order to continue to receive government funding, the French spa industry has made great efforts to demonstrate the scientific nature of spa therapy. I asked Maxime Daugados, a rheumatologist at a Paris hospital, whether spa treatments were helpful. His reply was “the question is actually not that simple”. He doesn’t think drinking spring water has much of a benefit, but he finds it useful for a three-week treatment session, during which the convalescent can enjoy the care of a physical therapist, psychiatrist and social worker. “Of course, this kind of treatment can actually be done outside the spa,” he added.
Dubois, chairman of the spa committee, told me: “The spa therapy may be effective or ineffective, but at least it is not harmful to people. You have to know that many therapies are actually harmful.” After all, swimming, bathing, massage, rest The benefits of , fresh air and a regular diet are obvious. Although hot spring therapy is called therapy, it does not mean that it can cure any disease at once like magic, it is more to prevent the disease from spreading. “It’s a medication-free regimen,” Bertin told me. She further explained that the three-week course isn’t about fixing anything in three weeks, it’s about helping people develop good habits that will Maintain a healthy lifestyle for the remaining 49 weeks of the year.
Why is the course of treatment three weeks? I’ve asked a lot of people, some say it’s traditional, others say it’s for financial reasons. Dubois replied: “You are a woman, I think you can understand that three weeks corresponds to a woman’s menstrual cycle.” Dubois said that the French medical system invests more than 350 million euros in spa treatments every year. That’s certainly nothing compared to the overall cost of the health care system, but it’s by no means a fraction. In fact, there are slobs who pretend to be sick and go to hot springs, wasting taxpayers’ hard-earned money, but the government doesn’t seem to think this is a big problem. “For some people who don’t have the means to travel, the three-week course of treatment is not only a cure, but also a valuable opportunity to travel,” said Legislator Jean Bernard.