“Kur” is a hard to translate German word and concept. An American friend mentioned that there is a similar thing in the US but it is not as often used as in Germany and Austria.
Even though everybody in Austria and Germany has heard about it, people might have different ideas of what it includes and what it is like. For example, it is often confused with a rehabilitation. It’s similar but still different. Others might think of it as a vacation paid by the health care system. There is some similarity but if you consider it your vacation you might not get the full payoff.
So what is it now?
In Austria it is a stay of several weeks at a health care resort with a daily structured program of medical treatments specifically prescribed for you by a “Kur” doctor. This program which involves many different kinds of therapists is not cheap. You could pay for it yourself but most people apply for it.
The application is first filled out by your GP who attaches all kinds of medical reports to it. This whole package is then sent to the office of your specific retirement insurance. They review the application and decide whether to grant your request or not. Sometimes they send you to another independent doctor who provides a second opinion. Eventually you get the official letter that tells you if you are accepted for a “Kur” and where it will take place. The actual date is then agreed upon with the specific “Kur” establishment. Most of the costs are paid by the retirement agency but each patient had to pay a nominal fee.
Most people who apply for it are past their forties and have varying small problems. The overall goal is preventative, in the sense of preventing from getting worth until it keeps people from participating in the workforce. I guess this is the reason why the retirement agency is in charge of it and not the usual social security and healthcare insurance. In general, people can apply for it every three years but there is no guaranty that it will be approved. I heard lots of stories of more or less severe health problems and a denied application.
In my case the reason for my application were back problems.
Like many other people I had lots of misconceptions before going on my own “Kur”. In the beginning I thought only people with serious health problems or after having had a surgery will go on “Kur”. But then I met friends who are fairly healthy who had been on a “Kur”. They told me that it is partly or mostly preventative.
Before coming here I also had the idea that this would replace this year’s vacation. But when I came here, I realised that a lot of the outcome will depend on me seriously working the program and doing my part. And now after the first two weeks, I can say that the treatment program keeps you fairly busy and some treatments take a lot of energy.
One reason I have hesitate for a long time before applying is also the rumors that the program can be quite overwhelming and stressful. Only after seeing examples to the contrary did I dare to give it a try.
Thankfully the “Kur” doctor understood that too much treatment would stress me and thereby creates the opposite effect. As a result she limited my daily treatments to three or four. That’s plenty since some of them require additional resting time so as to not overtaxed the body.
My program consists of a mixture of gymnastic programs, under water gymnastics, electric therapy (two kinds), physiotherapy, massage, mud packages, warmth packages, relaxation training and medical baths. In addition there are several information sessions about healthy life style and nutrition.
The different sessions are scheduled between 7 am and 4 pm. At least one session has to be in the afternoon; maybe this is in order to keep people from doing too much vacationing. We even have two to three sessions on Saturdays. But there is also plenty of other activities offered, like shopping or sightseeing trips, as well as additional fitness and meditation classes, social activities, museum visits, etc. And of course, there is the swimming pool and the sunny lawn to relax.
Most people come for three weeks. There are doctor’s appointments at the beginning, in the middle to check on the progress and adapt the treatment program if necessary, and at the end.
All in all, it is a full program and I don’t have much time and energy left to do many other things. But that’s ok — the priority is that my back will get better and that the tension in my neck will be reduced. I can already see some progress towards this goal.
P.S. The Wikipedia article in German describes the situation in Germany.