Balneotherapy is appreciated as a traditional treatment modality in medicine. Hungary is rich in thermal mineral waters. Balneotherapy has been in extensive use for centuries and its effects have been studied in detail. Here, we present a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials conducted with Hungarian thermal mineral waters, the findings of which have been published by Hungarian authors in English. The 122 studies identified in different databases include 18 clinical trials. Five of these evaluated the effect of hydro- and balneotherapy on chronic low back pain, four on osteoarthritis of the knee, and two on osteoarthritis of the hand. One of the remaining seven trials evaluated balneotherapy in chronic inflammatory pelvic diseases, while six studies explored its effect on various laboratory parameters. Out of the 18 studies, 9 met the predefined criteria for meta-analysis. The results confirmed the beneficial effect of balneotherapy on pain with weight bearing and at rest in patients with degenerative joint and spinal diseases. A similar effect has been found in chronic pelvic inflammatory disease. The review also revealed that balneotherapy has some beneficial effects on antioxidant status, and on metabolic and inflammatory parameters.
Based on the results, we conclude that balneotherapy with Hungarian thermal-mineral waters is an effective remedy for lower back pain, as well as for knee and hand osteoarthritis.