Water therapy has been used in athletics as the therapy of choice for years. Its low impact while bones, muscles and tendons are mending is perfectly suited. The Romans perfected the bath and used it for pleasure as well as to mend the wounds of their troops over 2000 years ago. Their baths were famous all throughout Europe such as in Baden Baden, Germany at the Caracalla spa.
Local Germans and European tourists visit the baths nightly to experience the melting away of aches and pains that the volcanic mineral waters make disappear (if even just for a couple hours). I have personally experienced this as well as my senior parents and there is definitely something special in the water.
In Italy they still prescribe going to the “spa” for all types of ailments. The Montecatini Spa is well known throughout Italy and states the waters, “are more frequently used in the treatment of diseases of the digestive system as well as those of the parts." Le applicazioni di fango, poi, giovano nelle malattie dell'apparato locomotore. The applications of mud, then, giovano in diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Il primo a descrivere, in un trattato (1417), le proprietà e le indicazioni terapeutiche è stato il fondatore dell'Idrologia medica italiana, Ugolino da Montecatini.
The first to describe, in a treatise (1417), the properties and therapeutic indications was the founder of Italian Medical Hydrology, Ugolino da Montecatini.” Doctors also prescribe these waters for respiratory diseases.
Native American’s utilized the springs of North America that were then discovered by the Americans and Canadians. These still provide healing waters but are not considered by the western medical system to provide true medicinal value.
The US did have their spa revival in the late 1800’s which not only included thermal waters but also sulphur springs that were to be ingested. They built spas over natural “hot springs” that still exist today such a Glenwood Springs in Colorado that was built in 1888. Canada’s Halcyon's Hot Springs claim that the “beneficial hot mineral waters have a unique combination of sodium, lithium, magnesium, calcium, and strontium, which can provide relief from arthritis, osteoporosis, and gout”.
While many of the spas are still operating in North American they have been relegated to the rich and movie stars. Pools for seniors are typically filled with chlorine and cold and as such are not encouraging to seniors to use. When used they provide little health benefits with the exception of exercise and water aerobics.
On the other side of the world, Japan due to its geological nature is the perfect spot for thermal baths and are used daily as a way to not only cleanse but socialize and relax. Kofu is known for its world -famous spa. Japan has the highest rate of Centenarians in the world which may be a combination between eating habits, genetics, bathing rituals and age of retirement.
While little is being done right to move spas back into the spotlight to aide in quality of life, Dr. Garry Kushnir of Rocky Point, Long Island, utilizes a heated salt water pool for aqua therapy with seniors has seen improvements in balance as well as relief from arthritis. If more seniors had access to and these programs the impact would be tremendous allowing for more independence and dignity.
One has to wonder how different North American Seniors health and wellness would be if they daily partook of the “waters”. If socialization, relaxation, increased circulation and water intake have anything to do with quality of life. We seem to be drastically missing the boat and in desperate need of a spa revival in the west.