Sylvie Desaleux, “No filter” physiotherapist

Photography : Camille Noyon - Text : Lucas Delattre
BAT - Sylvie Desaleux

Sylvie Desaleux’s practice looks like a flea market, a cutting-edge technology warehouse and a witch’s cave, all at once. There are a few bikes, one of which dates back to 1920, several massage tables, a balneo-therapy spa, a pot with clay bricks boiling away for warm cataplasms, inflatable balls and discs, a trampoline and a « Huber Motion Lab », stuffed with electronics, which is used for muscular reinforcement and joint work with oscillating plates and sensitive handles.

Sylvie – using first name and tu (informal ‘you’) is mandatory in her practice, and beware to those who call her « vous » or « Madame » – is a masseuse and physiotherapist in Senlis. She has been doing this for thirty-six years, having taken over her father’s practice.

« It’s a very fulfilling line of work. We meet people of all kinds of backgrounds, all ages, all intellectual profiles. I have always liked people. I am an Epicurean, I love life and I can’t do anything about it, and by the way I’m not sure that’s a quality » she says as she puts out a Gitane cigarette in a scallop-shell ashtray.

What motivates Sylvie is the will to « take care of people »: allow them to live normally or go back to work after accidents or disease. Her work has changed a lot in thirty-six years: there are more and more types of illnesses; and the aging of the population as well as a growing « social or societal anxiety» have had an impact on the mental and physical state of her patients.

Sylvie is also a trade unionist. She chaired the college of physiotherapists of the Health Professionals Union of Picardie for five years and has never stopped bearing responsibilities within the French Federation of masseurs, chiropractors and physiotherapists (FFMKR), of which she is now the departmental vice-president and member of the federal council. She devotes one day a week and a whole weekend every two or three months to defend the collective interests of the profession, get more recognition from medical doctors, or negotiate face to face with the administration of Social Security on nomenclature, prices and coefficients.

« I have lost three times my purchasing power in fifteen years » she says. « In 2000, before the switch to the euro, an average session allowed me to go to the hairdresser twice for a shampoo/cut/blow-dry and buy two packs of Gitane. In 2016, with two sessions, I can’t even get a haircut ».

If Sylvie hadn’t been a physiotherapist, she would have been a countryside medical doctor. She defines herself as a « family physiotherapist». And if she is not a medical doctor, it is because that she wasn’t made for school. « I can’t learn anything by heart except La Fontaine’s fables in slang. The original, I can’t remember it. » And there she goes reciting: « A crow dude on a tree slung, chomping down some mad cheese. A fox, attracted by the smell, came to him: « Hey there, handsome bird, you’re damn well dressed, fresh as a real posh guy, … »

What projects does she have for her future? Teaching, transmitting her knowledge, and «finding someone who stays there for afterwards».

Themes :