June 14, 2021

Hellenic Academy of Thermal Medicine: Thermal Tourism and Rheumatology

Konstantinos Kouskoukis

Professor of Dermatology


President Hellenic Academy of Thermal Medicine

President World Academy of Chinese & Complimentary Medicine

B’ Vice President GDHI

Thermal Hydrotherapy is defined as the use of hot mineral water from natural sources at a temperature of usually 28-36°C, with a concentration of minerals of at least 1g/l, for therapeutic purposes. Exercise in water as hydrokinesiotherapy consists of simply immersing the body in thermal water, which is often used in Complementary Medicine, as a therapeutical method for various diseases for all types of rheumatism, improving functional capacity and quality of life of these patients.

Thermal Hydrotherapy can be effective in the following rheumatological diseases:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease characterized by chronic, symmetrical inflammation of the peripheral joints mainly with pain, stiffness mainly in the morning, reduced range of motion of the joints for gradual deterioration of the physical condition and quality of life of patients.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis, a chronic, multi-systemic, inflammatory disease that primarily affects the sacroiliac joints and the axial skeleton, leading to ankylosis.
  • Fibromyalgia, characterized by chronic, diffuse pain and sensitivity released when pressure is applied to specific parts of the body called trigger points.
  • Chronic back pain, usually defined as persistent back pain beyond 7-12 weeks, is a common problem and significantly affects fitness in daily physical activity, with the corresponding impact on quality of life and work.
  • Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis and the leading cause of physical dysfunction and disability in the elderly, with common sites of infection being the knees, hips and arms.

The available scientific results support the utilization of thermal external hydrotherapy, for the treatment of the symptoms of rheumatic diseases, and its role is mainly complementary, as in most cases a combination of methods is required in parallel with exercise, physiotherapy and medication to achieve better results.

In most European countries, including Greece, the cost of thermal hydrotherapy sessions is reimbursed at least in part by insurers, but guidelines are required for indications and conditions for referral of patients. Given the good safety profile of Thermal Hydrotherapy, the researchers conclude that works additionally to conventional therapies, strictly applying the therapeutic protocol of Thermal Hydrotherapy and always with the approval and guidance of the Treating Physician.