An increasing body of evidence substantiating the effectiveness of balneotherapy has accumulated during recent decades. In the present study, 42 ambulatory patients (23 males and 19 females, mean age 59.5 years) with degenerative musculoskeletal disease were randomised into one of two groups-bathing in tap water or in mineral water at the same temperature-and subjected to 30-min balneotherapy sessions on 15 occasions. Study parameters comprised serum levels of sensitised C-reactive protein (CRP), plasma lipids, heat shock protein (HSP-60) and total antioxidant status (TAS). In both groups, CRP levels followed a decreasing tendency, which still persisted 3 months later. At 3 months after balneotherapy, serum cholesterol levels were still decreasing in patients who had used medicinal water, but exhibited a trend towards an increase in the control group. Triglyceride levels followed a decreasing trend in both patient groups. TAS showed a declining tendency in both groups. No changes of HSP-60 levels were observed in either group. Balneotherapy with the thermal water from Hajdúszoboszló spa had a more pronounced physiological effect compared to that seen in the control group treated with tap water in a 3 month period.