Alternative therapies gain ground

Cinnamon, camphor and aromatic oils are the surprising new fragrances on Greek beaches. Among the sunburnt workers who travel kilometers a day serving coffee and cleaning beaches, there are now chiropractors and reflexologists who offer bathers relaxation and relief from pain and discomfort. Asian and Greek practitioners specializing in shiatsu and other types of massage are the latest fad on Greek beaches. For 30 euros for half an hour, 15 euros for a quarter of an hour, they use alternative forms of therapy, by the sea. Is it a new trend or are Eastern practices that make use of nature’s armory here to stay? Statistics point to a gradual spread of all forms of complementary, analgesic and relaxing treatment. A survey conducted by the University of Manchester under Dr Alex Molassiotis showed that one-third of Europeans suffering from cancer use complementary or alternative treatments. Herbs were the most popular, followed by homeopathy and vitamin and mineral supplements. In Greece, no more than 15 percent of the population use alternative therapies, compared with 75 percent in Italy. The majority of those who do use alternative treatment are young, educated women, who use them for an average of 27 months in order to improve their physical and mental state. Only 3 percent of those who had used them judged alternative treatments to be completely useless. The most widely used forms of alternative therapy are homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, reflexology and reiki. Chiropractors, who specialize in treating the spine, assert their total independence from conventional medicine. Their profession is officially recognized in 15 countries, including the US, UK, Sweden, Canada and Australia. A common strand linking alternative methods of treatment is a holistic approach to the patient. Reflexologists say that the way we think affects the way the body functions. So in every case they analyze the patient’s mental and emotional environment before treating the symptoms. The only complementary treatment accepted by the Panhellenic Medical Association (PIS) is physiotherapy, performed on the instructions of the doctor treating the patient. «About 90 percent of the members of the association are against so-called alternative and complementary medicine,» PIS president Emmanuil Kalokairinos told Kathimerini. «I respect all colleagues, even homeopaths, but many alternative practitioners are not doctors and often use quack methods. It is absolutely acceptable if an orthopedist or neurologist recommends that a patient has physiotherapy for rehabilitation,» he said. «As for relief from pain, there are palliative care centers where doctors are on duty. It is a shame when someone with cancer is desperate enough to try anything and ends up being exploited.»

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