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

    This blog ran from 2006 to 2016 and was 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.

  • Common sense considerations

    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 vsĀ  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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