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Balneotherapy (Latin: balneum “bath”) is the presumed benefit from disease by bathing, a traditional medicine technique usually practiced at spas. While it is considered distinct from hydrotherapy, there are some overlaps in practice and in underlying principles. Balneotherapy may involve hot or cold water, massage through moving water, relaxation, or stimulation. Many mineral waters at spas are rich in particular minerals such as silica, sulfur, selenium, and radium. Medicinal clays are also widely used, a practice known as ‘fangotherapy’.
Definition and characteristics
“Balneotherapy” is the practice of immersing a subject in mineral water or mineral-laden mud; it is part of the traditional medicine of many cultures and originated in hot springs, cold water springs, or other sources of such water, like the Dead Sea.
Presumed effect on diseases
Balneotherapy may be recommended for a wide range of illnesses, including arthritis, skin conditions and fibromyalgia. Balneotherapy should be discussed in advance with a physician before beginning treatment, since a number of conditions, like heart disease and pregnancy, can result in a serious adverse effect.
Scientific studies into the effectiveness of balneotherapy do not show that balneotherapy is effective for treating rheumatoid arthritis. There is also no evidence indicating a more effective type of bath, or to indicate that bathing is more effective than exercise, relaxation therapy, or mudpacks. Most of the studies on balneotherapy have methodological flaws and are not reliable. A 2009 review of all published clinical evidence concluded that existing research is not sufficiently strong to draw firm conclusions about the efficacy of balneotherapy.
- Boleslav Vladimirovich Likhterman
- Enoch Heinrich Kisch
- Destination spa
- Hot spring
- Mineral spa
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