Balneotherapy (or spa therapy) for rheumatoid arthritis. An abridged version of Cochrane Systematic Review

Arianne Verhagen, Sita Bierma - Zeinstra, M Boers, JR Cardoso, J Lambeck, R de Bie, HCW Vet

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Background. Treatment options for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) include pharmacological interventions, physical therapy treatments and balneotherapy. Aim. To evaluate the benefits and harms of balneotherapy in patients with RA. Design. A systematic review. Population. Studies were eligible if they were randomised controlled trials consisting of participants with definitive or classical RA. Methods. We searched various databases up to December 2014. Balneotherapy had to be the intervention under study, and had to be compared with another intervention or with no intervention. We considered pain, improvement, disability, tender joints, swollen joints and adverse events among the main outcome measures. We excluded studies when only laboratory variables were reported as outcome measures. Two review authors independently selected trials, performed data extraction and assessed risk of bias. Results. This review includes nine studies involving 579 participants. Most studies showed an unclear risk of bias in most domains. We found no statistically significant differences on pain or improvement between mudpacks versus placebo (1 study; N.=45; hand RA; very low level of evidence). As for the effectiveness of additional radon in carbon dioxide baths, we found no statistically significant differences between groups for all outcomes at three-month follow-up (2 studies; N.=194; low to moderate level of evidence). We noted some benefit of additional radon at six months in pain (moderate level of evidence). One study (N.=148) compared balneotherapy (seated immersion) versus hydrotherapy (exercises in water), land exercises or relaxation therapy. We found no statistically significant differences in pain or in physical disability (very low level of evidence) between groups. We found no statistically significant differences in pain intensity at eight weeks, but some benefit of mineral baths in overall improvement at eight weekscompared to Cyclosporin A (1 study; N.=57; low level of evidence). Conclusion. Overall evidence is insufficient to show that balneotherapy is more effective than no treatment; that one type of bath is more effective than another or that one type of bath is more effective than exercise or relaxation therapy. Clinical Rehabilitation Impact. We were not able to assess any clinical relevant impact of balneotherapy over placebo, no treatment or other treatments.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)833-847
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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