Since 1966, Szigetvár in Hungary is well recognised as a thermal spa. Many patients suffering from rheumatic diseases are treated with its thermal mineral water. Our objective was to investigate the effects of a 3-week-long outpatient balneotherapy-based rehabilitation program on patients suffering from osteoarthritis of the hips and the knees. During the treatment period, patients received a 30-min underwater jet massage in a bath tub, five times a week. One patient group received jet massage in a bath tub containing mineral water; the other group received the same treatment in tap water. Primary outcomes were measured by range of movement of the involved joints and Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC). Visual analogue scale (VAS) was applied to measure current severity of pain. Furthermore, quality of life was assessed using the Short Form 36 questionnaire (SF-36). Range of movement (ROM) score, Western Ontario and McMaster University Osteoarthritis Index and visual analogue scale were determined before the first treatment, after the last treatment and 3 months after the last treatment. SF-36 questionnaire was filled in before the first and after the last treatment. Fifty patients (17 male, 33 female mean age 66.7 ± 4.79 years) were enrolled. After randomisation, patients were divided into two groups: tap water n = 24 and mineral water n = 26. Treatment with the thermal mineral water of Szigetvár significantly improved ROM, WOMAC scores, and SF-36-scored quality of life of the patients. Our double-blind study provided evidence for the beneficial health effects of another Hungarian thermal mineral water masking the colour, odour and pH of the tap water and mineral water.
Keywords: Arthritis; Balneotherapy; Thermal water; WOMAC.