22-year-old Maxime Lucas, an osteopath from France, moves his sensitive fingers to find the problematic areas, in the spine, mentioned by the patient.
Maxime already knows a few words in Armenian to ask whether it hurts in some part of the body. This is enough to communicate with patients who do not know French or English. An Armenian doctor translates more complex dialogues.
Osteopaths are manual therapists, that are treating mechanical disorders, musculoskeletal conditions, and work hand by hand with other medical professions in order to enhance health without medication.
Physician-rehabilitation expert Hasmik Petrosyan says the osteopathic approach is relatively new for Gyumri patients.
"The first visit of French osteopaths to Gyumri was in 2014. For the first three years, they were invited by the Samariter rehabilitation center. This year, they came to the Gyumri Medical Center,” says Hasmik.
The French osteopathic group is led by 28-year-old Julie Nicolas. Four years ago, she founded an association together with Armenian osteopath Samuel Hachikian, aiming to unite all the osteopaths operating in France.
It was Hachikian who suggested that, within the framework of a charity project, that French osteopaths visited Armenia for the first time in 2014. They firstcollaborated with the Red Cross in Yerevan and the Samariter rehabilitation center in Gyumri. This year, the French osteopaths have been hosted by the Erebuni and Arabkir Medical Centers in Yerevan and the Gyumri Medical Center.
Hasmik Petrosyan and Julie Nicolas
Julie Nicolas says she loves Armenia and looks forward to visiting every year.
"However, there are some things that make you sad in this country, especially in Gyumri. Here, people come to us with complicated issues. It’s obvious that, unfortunately, many do not have enough money to seek the help of professionals on time. In France, people have social insurance. Anyone can get treatment. There, patients usually come to us for small issues, while they come with serious illnesses in Armenia. Even patients in Yerevan and Gyumri differ: the situation is much better in the capital," says Julie.
Hasmik Petrosyan says the French osteopaths had 500 patients in Gyumri when they first arrived. The number of patients has dropped since, but Hasmik believes it’s because of migration rather than the method. This year, the Gyumri Medical Center received 200 patients.
"Not many Armenians apply for rehabilitation medicine. This is a young science, and doctors here are juststarting to get acquainted with the possibilities. The results of our work may appear slower, but they are justified. Patients who experience a positive effect recommend it to their relatives or friends," Hasmik says.
Osteopath Maxime Lucas is in Armenia for the first time. When asked about his profession choice, Maxime says, “The first time I went to see an osteopath with my parents I was amazed, so I decided to become one. I really enjoyed doing osteopathy in Gyumri. The patients, as well as the medical team I met, are very nice and interesting. Gyumri is a small but traditional town, so I was happy to visit it and feel the real Armenian spirit here. I would love to come back as a volunteer as part of the Echosteo project,” says Maxime.
"To get the osteopaths to Armenia, Julie organizes fundraising events all year long, so that a group of 25-30 can come for two weeks with a very busy schedule," says Hasmik Petrosyan.
"We will keep on coming as long as possible, but what we want is to train osteopaths in Armenia. We would like to open a center here, since Armenia needs an osteopathic center. We’ve reached this conclusion after our visits here and we would be glad if the Armenian government supported us in this matter, " says Julie.
The visits of the French osteopathsare highly appreciated in the Gyumri Medical Center. Hasmik Petrosyan says that they have patients who applied to the osteopaths in 2014, had a positive outcome, and every year they wait for the French specialists to visit again.
"This is also a good opportunity for local professionals. Our manipulative therapy doctor has been trained in Russia, and, thanks to these visits, she now has an opportunity to get acquainted with the French school, since the technique is different. Such charity projects are a great opportunity to share experiences and learn new things,” says Hasmik Petrosyan.