When three weeks of balneotherapy was combined with physiotherapy for patients with chronic low-back pain, the patients showed a significant increase in spinal mobility, along with a significant decrease in pain and functional disability, according to recent research.

The study, “Additional Therapeutic Effect of Balneotherapy in Low Back Pain,” involved 60 people with a mean age of about 62 years, all of whom had been suffering from chronic low-back pain for more than 12 weeks. Each subject had been diagnosed with lumbar spondylosis through medical history, physical examination and radiological findings.

Study participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Those in the first group received three weeks of both balneotherapy and physiotherapy. Those in the second group received three weeks of physiotherapy alone.

The balneotherapy consisted of 20-minute sessions five days a week for three weeks. The mineral content of the thermal water included sodium, chloride, sulfate, magnesium, calcium, fluoride, bicarbonate and silicate.

The physiotherapy consisted of ultrasound for six minutes, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation for 20 minutes, a hot pack for 20 minutes and standard exercise therapy. Subjects in both groups underwent the same physiotherapy routine for three weeks.

Outcome measures for this study were pain, functional disability and range of mobility of the lumbar spine. Pain was measured using a visual analog scale. Functional disability was measured using the Revised Oswestry Index, which allows patients to self-report their perceived disability levels. The Schober test was used to measure anterior flexion of the lumbar spine, and the researchers assessed the right and left flexion of each subject’s lumbar spine as well. These evaluations took place before and after the three-week intervention period.

Results of the research showed that all of these clinical parameters significantly improved among the subjects in both groups. However, scores for pain, functional disability and anterior flexion were superior among the subjects who received balneotherapy in addition to physiotherapy.

“According to the results of this study, physiotherapy together with balneotherapy is more effective than physiotherapy alone in improving pain, mobility and disability in the treatment of patients experiencing chronic low back pain,” state the study’s authors.

Authors: Murat Dogan, Ozlem Sahin, Hasan Elden, Emrullah Hayta and Ece Kaptanoglu.

Sources: Corum State Hospital, Clinic of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Corum, Turkey; and Cumhuriyet University Faculty of Medicine, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Sivas, Turkey. Originally published in Southern Medical Journal, 104(8), 574-578.