Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Is there a time of year when your legs seem to be heavier than normal? Are there days where you feel like you have weights tied to your legs? You might be suffering from Heavy Leg Syndrome, one of France's most peculiar maladies.
Heavy Leg Syndrome, from a non French perspective, is just a hypochondriac's term for "my legs are tired," but it seems to be a troublesome widespread epidemic that is mainly confined to mainland France.
Last night when I was watching the news, a commercial came on promoting a cream for the treatment of Heavy Leg Syndrome. I hadn't thought about this in a while, as I guess it's not the Heavy Leg time of year. I went on to google and typed in "crème jambes lourdes" just to see what might come up. The amount of cremes that treat this "illness" is nothing short of astonishing. The claim is that if your legs are feeling tired or a little heavy that rubbing these special cremes into your legs will provide instant relief for the suffering caused by this debilitating malady.
Now why is it that people feel the need to see a doctor just because their legs are sore? The French do have great health care here, and as it is quite inexpensive (at least in comparison to the United States), people head to the doctor anytime they happen to fart or cough a little more in the course of a day. And referencing an interview given in a great article on the subject of French hypochondria, to which you can find the link here, French doctors don't feel right unless they prescribe something to treat you. Anything less than a written prescription implies that the doctor doesn't care and is not doing his job correctly.
As a result, medications are over-prescribed, perhaps more so than anywhere else worldwide. According to a French consumer's organization UFC Que Choisir, France prescribes 40% more medication than most other countries in Europe. The French Health Ministry even came to the conclusion that 40% of it's medications are useless (The Economist, The Price of Popping Pills, 13 May 2004). The only purpose of these placebos is to give relief to patients that expect a medication to cure whatever illness they may or may not have.
So, perhaps these cremes and other holistic heavy leg treatments (such as walking in the sea and drinking copious amounts of herbal tea) are a product of the desire to sooth those sufferers who were tired of coming away from their doctor's appointment without a solution for their heavy legs. However, until someone scientifically proves that Heavy Leg Syndrome is little more than having tired legs, then I guess gravity will continue to pull a little bit harder underneath mainland France, much to the chagrin of its suffering populace.