Hydrotherapy: Water has been used medicinally for thousands of years, with traditions rooted in ancient China, Japan, India, Rome, Greece, the Americas, and the Middle East. There are references to the therapeutic use of mineral water in the Old Testament. During the Middle Ages, bathing fell out of favor due to health concerns, but by the 17th century, “taking the waters” at hot springs and spas became popular across Europe (and later in the United States).

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Study Indicates Frequent Baths Very Good for Your Heart
    A 2020 observational study from Japanese researchers (over 20 years, following 30,076 men and women) found that compared with people who took baths less than twice a week, those who took baths three to four times had a 25 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 13 percent lower risk of stroke. Daily bathers had a 35 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease and a 23 percent lower risk of stroke. The researchers argued that the simple practice of taking bathslowers blood pressure and improves blood vessel function.
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  • Hot Springs Bathing Lowers Stress in Japan’s Bathing Monkeys
    A small 2018 study from Kyoto University analyzed snow monkeys from the Nagano region famous for soaking in natural hot springs, and found that these macaques’ stress hormones declined significantly when they were bathing. There appears to be evidence of not just physical – but social – value of thermal bathing: the higher-ranking monkeys spent more time in the pools.
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  • A Hot Bath Delivers Health Benefits Similar to Exercise
    Most cultures believe in the benefits of thermal bathing. And a small 2017 study from Loughborough University (UK) indicated that passive heating improves health. An hour-long hot bath burned as many calories as a half-hour walk, and led to positive changes in inflammatory response similar to those following exercise. 
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  • Hot Springs Found to Relieve Chronic Pain, Depression and Insomnia 
    A 2017 study from Australia’s RMIT University (surveying 4,265 hot springs users) found that bathing in hot springs provided significant relief for severe back pain, arthritis, injury, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and insomnia.
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  • Hydrotherapies Can Reduce Pain in Fibromyalgia Sufferers
    In a systematic review (2014, University of Freiburg) of randomized controlled trials on balneotherapy’s and hydrotherapy’s efficacy in managing fibromyalgia, both therapies showed either moderate to strong evidence for pain reduction and in improving health-related quality of life. Larger studies needed. 
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  • Italy Study Points to Across-the-Board Improvements with Hydrotherapy
    A large, observational NAIADE study (Italy, 2008, of 23,680 users of 297 hydrothermal spas) found that for seven of the eight subgroups treated (rheumatic, respiratory, dermatologic, gynaecologic, otorhynologic, urinary, vascular and gastroenteric), the hydrotherapy users reported a reduction in hospitalizations, sick days and pharmacological drug use. 
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  • Reduced Pain for Osteoarthritis Patients Using Mineral Baths
    An Erasmus University (Netherlands) review of seven randomized controlled trials (498 patients) concluded that mineral baths improved pain and quality of life for osteoarthritis sufferers. 
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  • Turkey Study: Balneotherapy in Tandem with Physical Therapy Improves Outcomes
    A small 2014 trial by the Ankara (Turkey) Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Training and Research Hospital on the effectiveness of balneotherapy plus physical therapy (versus only physical therapy) in patients with chronic low back pain, found that improvements in pain, functionality and quality of life scores were superior in the balneotherapy plus physical therapy group. 
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  • Adding Hydrotherapy to Exercise and Pharma Helps Knee Osteoarthritis Sufferers
    Clinical Research Centre’s (France) large randomized trial showed a three-week course of spa hydrotherapy, exercise, and the usual pharmacological treatments provides greater benefit to knee osteoarthritis patients, when compared to exercise and drug treatment alone. 
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