For thousand years people have benefited from the therapeutic properties of thermal waters to rejuvenate, invigorate and heal. Treatments based on thermal hot springs, mineral water or mud have been used for centuries to help treat health problems and boost the immune system. Balneology is the technical term used to describe this method of complementary health, which has been long used in medicinal spas all over Europe, Canada, Mexico, Asia and Latin America. It a field of medicine that is heavily supported by scientific studies and is also considered to have an enormous advantage in treating health problems using restorative methods, rather than drugs or surgery.
Europe is highly regarded as a leader in medicinal waters, particularly in France where the thermal waters emerge from the depths of the earth, where they have stayed and travelled for nearly 9,000 years. These waters are naturally warm and rich in minerals, sulphur and microorganisms, which exert an antibiotic, anti-inflammatory and healing actions when they come in contact with the body.
Thermal Cure Centres, or centre de cure thermale as they say in French, cater for more than 500 000 patients per year and provide specialised spa treatments for conditions such as vascular, respiratory, rheumatologic, gynaecological, metabolic, dermatological and lymphatic chronic diseases. Qualified physicians provide medical spa programmes and spa water treatments that are individualised according to the patients’ needs. Spa treatments are generally 65% covered by French social security and in some cases, they may be covered 100% (work-related accident, occupational disease or long-term illness).
Treatment of Lymphedema at Luz Thermal Baths, France.
For several years, the medical team at the thermal cure centre of The Thermes de Luz Saint Sauveur (doctors, specialised physiotherapists, nurses, sports educators, thermal experts and meditators) have offered a thermal program for the management of primary and secondary lymphedema (upper and lower limbs).
The thermal waters of Luz-Saint-Saure are rich in sulphur and Barégine (a product of the sulphur-bacteria which has anti-inflammatory properties) and are warmed up in the heart of the earth. It resurfaces at a hot spring (33 ° C) and when put in contact with human skin and mucous membranes, heals and reconstitutes the affected tissues.
LYMPHO’THERMES is the centre’s extensive lymphedema medical and rehabilitation program that uses all the effective thermal techniques to treat the condition, improve the mobility of the limb, the lymph circulation and skin elasticity. The program follows a holistic approach to Lymphedema treatment, as outlined below:
1THALAXION Hydromassage for the arms and legs
Special care for Lymphedema of both the arms and legs is given using a specially designed hydrobath that performs an automated lymphatic draining technique called THALAXION. It works by using thermal water jets to pour water over the body in either continuous or sequential intervals, with varying temperatures and pressures. It stimulates the lymphatic system and moves excess liquid out of the body’s tissues. This technique was created by the doctors who work at the centre and won an innovation award in 2010.
2Pressotherapy (pneumatic compression)
Pressotherapy is a compression system designed to increase the venous and lymphatic flow and enhance extra-cellular fluid clearance¹. This technique uses a computer-controlled pump to inflate a multi-chambered garment, which is positioned on either the arms or legs. The chambers are inflated individually using a gradient of adjustable pressure. This technique stimulates blood circulation, enhances fluid clearance, reduces bloating, swelling and edema, alleviates leg fatigue and improves oxygen flow through the whole body².
3Manual Lymphatic Drainage
A typical Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) session is carried out every other day, followed by learning self-drainage. It also includes learning abdomino-diaphragmatic breathing and relaxation techniques.
4Intensive bandaging sessions
During the 2nd and 3rd week of the program, qualified practitioners wrap the affected limbs with short stretch bandages, foams and other essential materials to help further reduce the edema.
For patients with venous ulcers, Thermal water wraps (linen soaked with thermal water) are placed on the affected areas which help relax the skin and aid in the process of healing.
The purpose of the LYMPHO’THERMES program is to reinforce the independence of the patient living with Lymphedema. The success of this is largely determined by the patient’s education, their knowledge of the pathology and the tools at their disposal to reduce swelling. Therapeutic classes involve:
- Learning self MLD, draining manoeuvres and diaphragmatic respiration.
- Bandaging workshops
- Nutritional workshops (for overweight and obese patients)
- Interviews to discuss individual needs and questions that patients might have
6 Pilates sessions
Patients participate in Pilates exercises during their stay, which is designed to stimulate the proper functioning of respiratory, lymphatic and circulatory systems. They assist patients to:
- Release the tension zones in the body
- Practice deep breathing techniques
- To work the postural muscles
- To engage the deep muscles
- To improve coordination, balance and endurance
Aquatic immersion and activity have tremendous potential to activate the lymphatic system and drain excess liquid from tissues. Session in water (such as aqua gym and aqua walking) are purposely structured to help mobilise the upper or lower limbs and build muscle. Muscular work is amplified by the pressure of the water which stimulates the drainage of the limbs.
Since 2014, Aqua biking has been included in the LYMPHO-THERMES program, due to its tremendous efficacy in treating lymphedema in the lower limbs. The combination of water pressure and deep muscle movements involved in pedalling are essential to help the circulation of lymph.
9Nordic Walking Courses
Nordic Walking sessions are offered as part of the sports program at Luz St Sauveur and are a particularly beneficial exercise in the treatment of lymphedema. Brisk walking helps to strengthen and contract muscles of the upper and lower limbs, which promotes faster lymph fluid circulation.
A spa treatment is generally prescribed as an alternative to medicines, although it can also be used as a complement to “conventional” treatments. 18 days of care is needed to fully benefit from the effects of treatment. This therapeutic approach is more relevant than ever in dealing with longer life spans, chronic illnesses and poor quality of life in our modern lifestyles.
Have you ever been a patient at a thermal medical spa and want to share your experience? Contact us!
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