BALNEOTHERAPY Overview Information
Balneotherapy is the treatment of medical conditions by bathing in naturally occurring heated (thermal) mineral water. It is an ancient practice and has been used throughout history as a general tonic and for treating many diseases.
Modern balneotherapy is most often used for muscle and skeletal disorders, including osteoarthritis, joint pain associated with psoriasis (psoriatic arthritis), and swollen (inflamed) spine (ankylosing spondylitis). But balneotherapy is also used for heart disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping (insomnia), headache, muscle soreness, injury, low back pain, spinal cord injury, muscle spasms, stroke, acne, dermatitis, eczema, and many other conditions.
Frequently used balneotherapy locations around the world include the Dead Sea, Israel, Kangal Hot Springs, Turkey, Blue Lagoon, Iceland, and Baile Govora, Romania.
How does it work?
Balneotherapy literally means “bath therapy.” It is often used to describe many of the activities associated with “spa” treatments including water baths, mineral baths, mud baths, drinking mineral waters, and other activities. But, these uses of the term are a stretch. Balneotherapy is actually the specific use of naturally occurring thermal mineral water or spending time in a heated pool that contains different types of minerals. Minerals can include sulfur, sodium, bicarbonate, magnesium, and many others.
Balneotherapy is thought to have several healthful effects including reducing swelling (inflammation), affecting the function of the immune system, and others.
Some people believe that the benefits of balneotherapy are due to the absorption of bath minerals through the skin. However, there is not very much scientific support for this.
Possibly Effective for:
- Back pain. Several studies show that balneotherapy using mineral bath or shower significantly reduces low back pain. However, some experts question these findings, saying that the studies were not well designed.
- Fibromyalgia. Some research shows that balneotherapy with mineral baths significantly reduces tender points in patients with fibromyalgia.
- Arthritis (osteoarthritis). Some research shows that mineral baths can significantly reduce pain and improve quality of life for people with osteoarthritis. A sulfur bath in combination with a Dead Sea mineral bath also appears to reduce pain and improve function short-term (for up to one month after treatment), but not after three months. However, a sulfur bath without Dead Sea mineral bath (and vice versa) does not appear to significantly improve arthritis symptoms.
- Joint pain associated with psoriasis (psoriatic arthritis). Developing research suggests that balneotherapy in the Dead Sea mineral baths significantly reduces tender points and active joints in patients with fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis.
- Psoriasis. Some research suggests that Leopoldine spa water, which is rich in sulphate, significantly reduces psoriasis area compared to distilled water.
- Swollen spine (ankylosing spondylitis). There is some evidence that balneotherapy with a mineral bath plus an exercise program reduces pain and improves function better than the exercise program alone. But the benefit doesn’t seem to last; it is noticeable after treatment but not 6 months later. Another study shows that balneotherapy, with or without non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), reduces symptoms more than NSAIDs alone. These benefits were noticeable at the end of therapy and lasted at least 6 months.
- Heart disease.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
- Muscle soreness.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Spinal cord injury.
- Muscle spasms.
- Other conditions.
BALNEOTHERAPY Side Effects & Safety
There are no known safety concerns. Significant side effects have not been reported in scientific studies.