New Research Supporting the Use of Balneotherapy in Arthritis

 In Naturopathic News

Two new research studies serve as reminders of the power of balneotherapy techniques to ease pain and inflammation. Balneology is the art and science of bathing in and use of mineral waters for healing purposes. Mineral springs, including hot springs, contain different and varying levels of trace minerals and gasses, which can be utilized for specific ailments.

A November study published in the International Journal of Biometeorology, showed a significant decrease in pain and stiffness and an increase in function in individuals with osteoarthritis of the hip who combined home exercise and balneotherapy, compared to just home exercise(1). The mineral water used in this study was extremely high in sulfide ions (13.2 mg/L). Sulfur-rich mineral waters are used therapeutically for skin conditions as well as inflammatory complaints. In fact, a study conducted in April 2016, showed a significant immunomodulatory effect from bathing in sulfur-rich waters in patients suffering from atopic dermatitis; CD4 count and Foxp3 increased as well as T regulatory cells in atopic lesions(2). The Balneology Association of North America has this to say about Sulfur enriched waters:

Hydrating with Sulfur rich mineral waters has been used medicinally since ancient times. Also known as “nature’s beauty mineral”, because your body needs it to manufacture collagen, which helps with skin elasticity and keeps us young looking. Sulfur is contained in every cell in the body. Approximately 0.25 percent of your total body weight is sulfur. It is most concentrated in keratin which gives you strong hair, nails and skin. Sulfur eases irritated skin conditions and helps protect the body against toxins in the environment. Inflammation can be relieved by taking a soothing bath in hot sulfur springs.

Another recent study of 103 individuals concluded that the use of mud-bath therapy added to the usual treatment of osteoarthritis had a beneficial effect on pain and function in patients with knee OA(3). Serum biomarkers showed a significant increase of CTX-II only, and researchers pose that this could be a response to an increase of cartilage turnover induced by thermal stress(3).


  1. Kovács C, et al. Effects of sulfur bath on hip osteoarthritis: a randomized, controlled, single-blind, follow-up trial: a pilot study.Int J Biometeorol. 2016 Nov;60(11):1675-1680. Epub 2016 Jun 21
  2. Lee YB, et al. Immunomodulatory Effects of Deokgu Thermomineral Water Balneotherapy on Oxazolone-Induced Atopic Dermatitis Murine Model.Ann Dermatol. 2016 Apr;28(2):192-8. doi: 10.5021/ad.2016.28.2.192. Epub 2016 Mar 31.
  3. Pascarelli NA, et al. Effect of Mud-Bath Therapy on Serum Biomarkers in Patients with Knee Osteoarthritis: Results from a Randomized Controlled Trial.Isr Med Assoc J. 2016 Mar-Apr;18(3-4):232-7.


email-photoNode Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision. 

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