Spa therapy: Does it matter how long you stay?

Researchers at the University of Tartu in Estonia studied the duration of spa therapy on the management of osteoarthritis.

First, the details.

  • 296 patients participated in the study.
  • Differences in alleviating osteoarthritis symptoms between 6- and 12-day courses of spa therapy were compared.
  • The spa provided a range of therapies including mud and paraffin–ozokerite applications; pearl baths; underwater shower-massage; manual massage; therapeutic exercises in the gym and in the swimming pool.
  • Outcomes were assessed using a visual analogue scale and the Lequesne index.
    • The Lequesne index is a 10-question interview-style survey given to patients with osteoarthritis of the knee: 5 questions pertain to pain/discomfort, 1 question on maximum distance walked, and 4 questions about activities of daily living.

And, the results.

  • There was significant improvement in both the 6- and 12-day groups.
  • There were no significant differences between the groups.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Spa therapy has a positive effect by reducing pain and improving clinical status in patients suffering from osteoarthritis.”

This study didn’t look at the duration of the benefits. The consensus on this point seems to be that a day at the spa might make you feel better in the near term, but the long-term effects (if any) are not known.

The pain to your checkbook is a major rate-limiting factor for spa visits.

3/18/08 12:56 JR

Hi, I’m JR

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.