The term ‘Balneotherapy’ is used to denote all the therapies that are associated with spas – hot baths, taking of the waters, vapor baths as well as mud applications and sand treatments, water massage, etc. Today we associate all these activities with high end destinations and expensive pampering mainly for relaxation and so on.
Yet the medicinal benefits of natural hot water springs have been well documented since ancient times. The remains of Roman baths that date back to a couple of millennia ago are testament to the fact that natural springs were able to treat a number of ailments very effectively.
Chemicals such as magnesium, sodium, iron, calcium, potassium, manganese, lithium, arsenic, bromine and iodine as well as others found in hot springs have had ameliorating effects on ailments for thousands of years.
In the past, people were advised to take the waters for ailments ranging from mental illnesses to heart problems to leprosy.
Even today, balneotherapy is recommended for conditions such as many types of arthritis, fibromyalgia and even certain skin conditions.
Though scientific studies have produced varying results on the efficacy of the treatment, there is evidence to suggest that balneotherapy has curative properties:
- Dead Sea or sulfur baths are thought to help in pain management for osteoarthritis. It was found that there was significant improvement in symptoms of osteoarthritis when subjects received Dead Sea and sulfur treatments. The positive effects on people with osteoarthritis of the knees, was seen to last for at least three months after the treatment.
- Balneotherapy could help to improve quality of life researchers found
- Symptoms such as pain, anxiety and ability to carry on normal activities of life on a daily basis were seen to improve among patients of fibromyalgia in another study relating to balneotherapy. The study found evidence to support the use of this therapy as effective for treating fibromyalgia using alternative treatments.
- There is also evidence to suggest that this alternative treatment could be useful for treating rheumatological diseases and improving their symptoms as well
In general there are no negative effects reported when balneotherapy is used for treating ailments though people with heart disease and pregnant women are advised caution.
Some of the best known spas and natural hot water springs in the world that are known to have positive impacts on health and wellness are the Ein Bokek near the Dead Sea, the Warm Springs in Georgia USA, Ananda Spa in the Himalayas of India, The Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Iceland, as well as the world famous spas located in Argentina, Romania and Lithuania.