Alternative procedures are not taught in Belgian medical schools, but nearly all practitioners are qualified doctors, allopathic doctors or trained physiotherapists in the case of osteopaths and chiropractors. There is a move by politicians, among others, to further regulate these practices.
Homeopathy is well established in Belgium. It is usually practised by qualified doctors and involves treating the individual with highly diluted substances, based on the principle that you can treat ‘like with like’. The number of Belgians consulting homeopaths every year is growing – the figure currently stands at around 18%. It’s usually seen as a complement to existing medical treatment. Medical problems commonly treated by homeopaths relate to allergies, back pain, minor injuries and sleeping and digestive disorders. Most homeopathic medicines can be found in pharmacies, and the majority are partially reimbursed by insurance funds via complementary insurance.
Acupuncture is a complementary form of medicine that has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, though not all practitioners in the West use the Chinese approach. It aims for therapeutic benefits by stimulating specific points of the body via very fine needles and can provide pain relief and improve some health problems. For a number of years, all insurance funds have partially reimbursed the cost of acupuncture for a maximum number of sessions per year. Again, complementary insurance is necessary.
Osteopathy is similarly classified as an alternative form of medicine, though it is common practice and well established in Belgium. Private schools train osteopaths and there is also a course at the Free University of Brussels (ULB). Insurance funds partially reimburse treatment by recognised osteopaths through complementary insurance. Sometimes practised by physiotherapists, osteopathy is a holistic approach to treating and strengthening the body’s musculoskeletal framework. Its philosophy is that the body functions in an integrated way: if one part is restricted, the rest adapts and compensates, leading to pain, inflammation, stiffness or other problems.
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