The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
  • About this web log

    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

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    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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    Balneotherapy: 2 reviews of the evidence

    This review of balneotherapy comes from the Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences (AIBS), in Athens, Greece.

    Balneotherapy (from Latin: balneum, “bath”) is the treatment of disease by bathing. It may involve hot or cold water, massage through moving water, relaxation, or stimulation.

    Now, the details.

    • 29 studies of 1720 patients were evaluated.
    • 22 studies in rheumatological diseases
      • 8 osteoarthritis
      • 6 fibromyalgia
      • 4 ankylosing spondylitis
      • 4 rheumatoid arthritis
    • 3 studies of chronic low back pain
    • 3 studies focused on psoriasis
    • 1 study on Parkinson’s disease

    And, the results.

    • Balneotherapy was associated with significantly greater pain improvement in rheumatological diseases and chronic low back pain vs the control group (17 of 25 studies).
    • There was improvement with balneotherapy in the remaining studies, but the response was not significantly better than in the control groups.
    • This beneficial effect lasted 10 days to 1 year — most often, 3 months.

    The bottom line?
    The authors concluded the available studies suggest that balneotherapy is effective treatment for several rheumatological disease. However, “existing research is not sufficiently strong to draw firm conclusions.”

    A 2007 Cochrane review of balneotherapy to treat rheumatological diseases reported:

    • Radon-carbon dioxin baths compared with carbon dioxin baths may not lead to a short-term difference in pain, only possibly at 6 months.
    • Tap water baths may not lead to any difference in pain compared to land exercises or relaxation.
    • Mineral baths may lead to a significant difference in pain at 8 weeks compared with taking cyclosporine (Sandimmune), but might also lead to side effects.
      • Cyclosporine is a potent immunosuppressive agent.
    • Sulfur baths or Dead Sea baths may not lead to any overall benefit compared to no treatment.
    • Insufficient data support mineral baths vs  cyclosporine.

    Overall, the Cochrane review concluded there were “not enough data” to tell whether physical disability would improve with various forms of balneotherapy.”

    7/29/09 21:40 JR

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