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September 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1988 ; 27(1): 69-73.

Some preliminary considerations on the sobada: a traditional treatment for gastrointestinal illness in Costa Rica.

Simpson SH.

College of Nursing, University of Florida, Gainesville 32610.

Although Costa Rica has one of the most effective national health systems in Latin America, popular medicine still persists. The sobada is a traditional healing technique which involves rubbing. Used principally to treat pega, a folk-diagnosed gastrointestinal condition which mainly affects children and old people, it was used by 70% of a random sample of families from the poorer barrios of San José. In recent years Costa Rica's health system has been under great strain because of increased costs and numbers of users. The prevalence and possible resurgence of the sobada may be an adaptation of poor people to national health services which have grown suddenly very large and impersonal and to the recent introduction of oral rehydration in hospital settings.


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