Arthritis common symptoms include pain, swelling, stiffness and decreased range of motion.
Symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe and they can come and go. Severe arthritis results in chronic pain, inability to do daily activities and make it difficult to walk or climb.
Since medications can cause side effects. Physical exercises – yoga and Pilates may not convince everyone so there is a need for alternative treatment.
One such way is - Spa Bathing
What is the spa bathing?
Balneotherapy is a kind of spa therapy which involves a bath in thermal water. The temperature of the bathing water is about 34 degree Celsius.
The benefits of balneotherapy involve stress removal, relaxation, pain relief from joints and so on.
Soaking in warm water is one of the oldest forms of therapy.
Researchers have shown that warm water therapy works amazingly for all kinds of musculoskeletal conditions, including arthritis and low back pain.
Spa treatment not only provides mental benefits like relaxation and de-stressing but also have several physical benefits too.
Warm water soaking reduces the force of gravity that is compressing the joint, offers 360-degree support for sore limbs, increase blood circulation and can also decrease swelling and inflammation.
6 Benefits of Spa Bathing in Arthritis
Here are some key benefits of Spa bathing in arthritis.
1. Spa bathing Improves the functionality of joints
A study was performed with an objective to assess the efficacy of spa bathing on pain and functionality of knee affected by osteoarthritis.
One group of patients were exposed to sulphate-bicarbonate-calcium mineral water bath whereas the other set of people restored to standard care for 12 weeks.
Significant improvement in almost all parameters was seen in the spa treatment arm as compared to the control set of people.
It was found that the significant improvement in functional capacities was seen as early as 15 days.
The study also assessed the tolerability of the therapy was good with minimum side effects.
What does this mean? This means that the spa therapy is highly efficient in restoring movement and functionality of the joints. It also showed high tolerability and least side effects.
2. Spa bathing decreases pain and inflammation
Any kind of arthritis involves pain and inflammation which makes difficulty in movement of joints. It is believed that water has a property to cure.
Hot water tries to relax the body and impulses blood circulation out to the body's exterior whereas cold water pushes the blood inwards towards the internal organs.
Cold water actually contracts the blood vessels, stimulates digestion, metabolism and also reduces swelling and inflammation.
It has been found that spa therapy successively reduced pain in fibromyalgia patients. Fibromyalgia is very much similar to rheumatologic disorder.
It was found that 6-month exposure to spa therapy reduced pain, anxiety and improved the ease of daily activities.
Another study ‘Clinical efficacy and cost-effectiveness evidence of Spa therapy in osteoarthritis’ mentions that spa therapy significantly improved the pain, functional ability in subjects.
It also showed that beneficiary action of spa therapy decreased the use of symptomatic drugs, the number of hospital admissions, and missed workdays.
What does this mean? This means that long term use of spa therapy can reduce pain and inflammation of joints in people affected by rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. It has also been found that spa therapy improved the quality of life.
3. Spa therapy reduces oxidative stress in arthritis
Oxidative stress refers to an imbalance between oxygen needed and oxygen available.
This may generate reactive oxygen species which break down important biomolecules.
In a study, it has been found that oxidative stress can contribute to the pathogenesis of rheumatic arthritis.
Since spa therapy refreshes the oxygen profile by acting as anti-oxidant. A clinical trial showed that 12 balneotherapy sessions for 2 weeks in a thermal water pool for 20 minutes can efficiently reduce oxidative stress. Reducing oxidation stress can improve the pain score, function and decrease swollen joint count.
What does this mean? This means that spa bathing can reduce the oxidative stress which can be a risk factor in arthritis.
4. Spa bathing benefits in ankylosing spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis is a kind of arthritis majorly affecting the spine and surrounding joints.
A clinical trial revealed that the combined effect of spa therapy and rehabilitation showed clear, long-term clinical improvement in Ankylosing spondylitis patients treated with TNF inhibitors.
TNF alpha or tumor necrosis factor alpha is a pro-inflammatory agent produced in the body.
Further, it was concluded that thermal treatment was well tolerated and none of the patients had disease relapse.
What does this mean? This means that thermal spa treatment can have long term benefit in relieving pain in Ankylosing spondylitis patients when combined with conventional treatment.
5. Spa bathing reduces symptoms of osteoarthritis
Spa therapy can be an important backup to pharmacologic treatment of knee osteoarthritis or can act as an important alternative for those who can’t tolerate pharmacologic treatments.
Trial results disclose that spa therapy with home exercise is more beneficial than home exercise alone in the management of arthritis in knee osteoarthritis patients.
Another trial report with similar results explained that 3-week course of spa therapy with home exercise and pharmacological treatment can benefit more than home exercise alone in 6 months.
What does this mean? This means that the spa therapy is one of the best alternative for osteoarthritis patients who can’t tolerate medicinal drugs. The best results can be obtained when spa therapy is used in combination with home exercises.
6. Spa therapy reduces drug dependence in rheumatoid arthritis
The studies revealed that the use of spa therapy on a regular basis for a year can significantly drop the consumption of steroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in rheumatoid patients.
The study also claims that spa therapy had a long term effect.
Another study aimed to study the difference between the treatment effect of drug and radon spa therapy in rheumatoid arthritis patients disclosed that radon spa therapy is superior to drugs regarding the analgesic effect.
In 6 months the functionality improved in the spa therapy group.
Several studies suggest that a combination of physical and spa therapy has been extremely beneficial in treating chronic pain and improve hemodynamic responses.
What does this mean? This means that the spa therapy is beneficial in reducing pain and improving functionality in rheumatoid arthritis patients over steroidal and non-steroidal drugs. Spa therapy has a long term effect as compared to medicinal drugs
So, is it Spa bathing/ Balneotherapy effective in Arthritis?
Yes, with the above-mentioned evidence and scientific studies reflect that spa therapy or balneotherapy is effective in reducing pain, inflammation, oxidative stress in people affected by rheumatoid arthritis.
There is little or few evidence to show that spa therapy is equally good for osteoarthritis patients but spa therapy reduces pain and inflammation in osteoarthritic people.
Studies reveal that spa therapy accompanied by home exercise can benefit osteoarthritis patients.
Precautions with Spa Bathing
Water temperature ranging between 92-100 degrees is considered a healthy range. If having cardiovascular problems, beware of water that’s too hot, as it can put stress on the heart.
Avoid spa therapy in case of any diseases or metabolic conditions.
People with the following conditions can’t participate in balneotherapy-
- All type of infectious diseases
- Toxicomania, chronic alcohol addicts
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
- Acute thrombophlebitis
- Bathing under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Anemic conditions
- Conditions involving high fever
- Circulation disorders
Be careful with a hot spring, especially when alone. Opt for a private pool, if the individual is sensitive or has certain diseases
Children, pregnant women and those with heart conditions or other serious health conditions should consult with a doctor or a medical balneologist.
Avoid Smoking and alcohol prior to therapy.
There is an endless list of spa therapy benefits arthritis people. It reduces the pain and allows movement of the affected joint.
It also decreases oxidative stress which is supposed to be a risk factor for rheumatology.
It reduces the pain and allows movement of the affected joint. It also decreases oxidative stress which is supposed to be a risk factor for rheumatology.
Secondly, by relieving pain and improving movement, it improves the quality of life in terms of mental, physical and financial status.
It decreases the burden on hospital and makes the patient independent and back to work.
Spa therapy can be as beneficial add-on therapy in arthritis.