Spa therapy and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal pathologies: a proposal for best practice in Italy

Int J Biometeorol. 2020 Jun;64(6):905-914. doi: 10.1007/s00484-019-01731-z. Epub 2019 May 26.


Spa therapy is a heterogeneous collection of treatments and methods based on natural resources. It is often considered as an option in the common therapeutic approach to many musculoskeletal disorders, as well as respiratory, vascular, and dermatological disorders. The objective of this paper is to highlight possible interactions between rehabilitation and spa medicine in the field of musculoskeletal disorders, through an analysis of the scientific literature, in order to give the practitioner the ability to integrate good clinical practice in the field of rehabilitation through practical application involving spa therapies. The literature search was conducted using Medline, PEDro, Cochrane Database, and Google Scholar. Only studies published in English and works concerning the implementation of spa thermal treatment in neuro-musculoskeletal diseases were included. Specifically, the publications analyzed dealt with the treatment of diseases such as arthritis, rheumatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and low back pain through the use of thermal spa therapies. In conjunction with its widespread use in clinical practice, many studies in the literature suggest the effectiveness of crenobalneotherapy for a number of musculoskeletal disorders, generally those which are chronic and debilitating, finding significant clinical improvement both in terms of pain and functional limitations. Some of the guidelines formulated by national and international bodies on the treatment of specific diseases, such as the Italian Rheumatology Society (SIR) and the Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) guidelines, recognize the value of thermal medicine as a complement, but not a replacement, for conventional therapy (pharmacological or not).

Keywords: Best practice; Pain; Rehabilitation; Thermal therapy.

MeSH terms

  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid*
  • Balneology*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases*
  • Osteoarthritis*