The right idea: an anti-stress spa treatment

It is shown, the thermalism is more effective than an antidepressant to treat the anxiety disorders. Hence the interest of a cure combining care and relaxation.

Erik Pigani

If the therapeutic practice of the bath goes back to the ancient Greeks, it is the Romans who officially created the baths in the 1st century BC. J. -C. and made it one of the essential elements of their civilization. Among the hundreds of French establishments built around sources, some - Dax, Vichy, Aix-les-Bains ... - thus go back to the Roman occupation.

Abandoned for more than a thousand years, the spa was honored by Father Kneipp (1821-1897), the precursor of natural health who opened the first spa center in Germany in 1880. For him, water was a gift from God, the best of all remedies. Among other baths and showers of cold water, he advocated walks barefoot in the streams or in the morning fresh dew ... In 1947, spa treatments were recognized by the "official" medicine and supported by the Social Security .

A cure offers a set of treatments also known as crenotherapy: external hydrotherapy (or balneotherapy), with baths, showers, mud applications, massages; internal hydrotherapy, with the treatment of drink and inhalation of water spray. Numerous studies have shown that balneotherapy - moving water, through jets, swirls or microbubbles - regulates blood circulation and has positive effects on the cardiovascular system, as well as on the processes of elimination of the body.

But it is only recently that we have discovered the psychotherapeutic potential of spa treatments: a scientific study, "Stop-TAG", supervised by the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and published in 2008, was conducted with two groups of patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The first were interviewed two months after a spa treatment; the latter, after treatment with antidepressants. The effectiveness of cures has proved to be much higher and longer lasting than that of drugs.

This potential is reinforced in some stations by the therapeutic properties of the water itself. Like the Allevard thermal baths, whose water, among the most sulfurous, relieves anxiety and stress, sulfur acting on the autonomic nervous system and regulating tension. Or those of Châtel-Guyon, whose exceptionally rich magnesium water regulates the neurovegetative system and, in fact, reduces the negative effects of stress.

Since then, a number of establishments have been competing ingeniously to offer anti-stress "minicures", usually six days, but which are not supported by social organizations. Thus, the Saujon, Jonzac, Rochefort, Bagnoles-de-l'Orme, Divonne-les-Bains, Amnéville and Bagnères-de-Bigorre thermal baths, to name but a few, offer adapted treatments that combine conventional crenotherapy with various relaxing treatments, such as sauna, underwater or essential oil massage, and sophrology workshops, qi gong, coaching, music therapy, self massage, botanical walk.

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