What is Balneotherapy?
Treatment of disease by bathing in mineral springs
Balneotherapy (from Latin: balneum, “bath”), may involve hot or cold water, massage through whirlpool current water, relaxation or stimulation.
The bathing process involves particular types of water and fluids, rich in salts, minerals and other organic compounds, which are believed to have healing properties.
- These include sulphur springs and concentrated salty water, such as found at the Dead Sea (in the middle east).
- Hot springs, which are high in Radon (a radioactive substance) are also said to possess particular healing properties.
Mineral waters are rich in a particular substance that can be absorbed through the skin. Mineral waters are natural solutions, which are formed under specific geologic conditions. Originating in springs, they are bacteriologically pure and have a therapeutic potential.
Balneotherapy is thought to promote healing by:
- Enhance the immune system
- Stimulate circulatory process, including lymph and blood circulation
- Accelerate cell activity
- Dilate tissue and vessels
- Activate the natural self-healing potential of the body
Why are These Types of Minerals Beneficial?
- Sulfur is beneficial for a wide variety of conditions, including skin infections, respiratory problems, and skin inflammations.
- Chlorides (sodium chloride) is beneficial for rheumatic conditions, arthritis, central nervous system conditions, post-traumatic and post-operative disorders, as well as orthopedic and gynecological disease.
- Arsenic in larger doses is toxic in the human body, although small amounts may assist the body with plasma and tissue growth. Foot bathing in mineral waters with a high content of arsenic is used to address fungal conditions of the feet.
- Boron builds muscle mass, increases brain activity and strengthens bones.
- Calcium is effective at preventing water retention, increasing circulation and strengthening bones and nails.
- Potassium aids in the normalization of heart rhythms, assists in reducing high blood pressure, helps to eliminate body toxins and promotes healthy skin. It energizes the body, helps to balance skin moisture and is a crucial mineral to replenish following intense exercise.
- Bromides act to ease muscle stiffness and relax muscles.
- Sodium and natural salts assist with the alleviation of arthritic symptoms, and may stimulate the body’s lymphatic system when used in baths. It’s important for the lymphatic fluid balance, which has a positive effect on the immune system function.
For centuries the benefits of therapeutic bathing have been recognized for the ability to relieve pain and improve the general well being of the body and the spirit. In fact, Balneotherapy is one of the oldest of medical procedures, well known and widely regarded throughout the world, where people have historically flocked to spas for recreation and treatment.
- Accelerating cell activity
- Increasing cell oxygenation
- Boosting the immune system
- Increasing body metabolism
- Improving blood circulation
- Eliminating toxins
- Nourishing vital organs and tissues
- Promoting relaxation
- Decreasing inflammation
- Relieving pain.
Health conditions Balneotherapy is said to be useful in treating include:
- Skin diseases, including psoriasis and eczema
- Mild respiratory diseases
- Metabolic diseases, especially gout and diabetes
- Autonomic nervous system dysfunction
- Gynecological diseases
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Circulatory diseases, mostly mild to moderate hypertension
- Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS)
- Parkinson’s disease
- Stress-related diseases
- Low back pain
- Varicose veins
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Alcohol and smoking are prohibited during activities.
Young children, pregnant women, and those with heart conditions or other serious health conditions should consult with a medical doctor before bathing, or consult with a medical balneologist.
In any case, soaking in mineral waters should not be done at excessively high temperatures without medical clearance when any contraindicated condition exists. A tepid to warm bath ( 35°C-37°C ) is as safe as taking a bath at home.
There are several precautions you need to consider before bathing:
- confusion or disorientation
- after ingestion of alcoholic beverages
- under the influence of narcotics
- respiratory problems
You can not participant if you suffer from any of the following conditions:
- Conditions involving high fevers
- All types of infectious diseases
- Extreme Hypertension
- Liver, kidney, or circulation disorders
- Anemic Conditions
- Congestive heart failure, recent stroke, or recent heart attack
- Bathing under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Toxicomania, chronic alcohol addicts
- Acute conditions or acute diseases
- Circulatory insufficiency of any origin
- Acute thrombophlebitis
- Frequently recurrent hemorrhages
- Labile diabetes mellitus or acidosis
- Cachexia, Malignant tumors, Veneral diseases
- Epilepsy, Fits of psychoses
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
Balneotherapy may be truly associated with improvement in several rheumatological diseases. However, existing research is not sufficiently strong to draw firm conclusions.
Balneotherapy may be recommended for wide range of illnesses, including arthritis, skin conditions and fibromyalgia. As with any medical treatment, balneotherapy should be discussed with a physician before beginning treatment, since a number of conditions, like heart disease and pregnancy, can result in a serious adverse reaction.
Scientific studies into the effectiveness of balneotherapy tend to be neutral or positive, finding that balneotherapy provides no effect or a placebo effect, or that there is a positive effect. However, many of these studies suffer from methodological flaws, and so may not be entirely reliable. A 2009 review of all published clinical evidence concluded that existing research is not sufficiently strong to draw firm conclusions about effectiveness of balneotherapy for any medical condition.
References: PMID: 19570124 [PubMed – in process]