Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Don Benedict hurt his lower back and tells about benefits of hot baths and saunas to relieve his chronic pain. He is a 70-year old former handball player. He played competitive handball for 30 years in the Pacific Northwest. His story is reviewed here. In order to stay in shape, he ran 5 miles every other day. But at the age of 57 he ruptured a disc in his back. In the following years he ruptured several more discs and had three back surgeries for that. Eventually scar formation set in and no more surgery was possible. This left him with a chronic pain syndrome, for which he received prescriptions for strong pain medications. OxyContin, Tramadol and anti-anxiety pills were on his prescription list. He needed to take 14 doses of pills per day to control his chronic back pain.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for chronic pain

Finally he remembered that as a younger man he was a summer river guide on Idaho’s Salmon River. When he and his wife had sore muscles they would relax in the hot baths of natural hot springs. Other people who visited these hot springs told him how having hot baths helped them for their aches and pains. For the past four years Don and his wife have been visiting the hot springs in Idaho City three times per week. This has decreased Don’s back pain significantly. He could reduce more than half of his pain medications and reduce the potency of the pain pills as well. The water temperature in the hot springs hovers between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (36 to 37 degrees Celsius). His wife, who has an asthmatic condition, reported that the hot soaks helped her muscle spasms around the throat.

Other treatment modalities to prevent chronic pain

13 years ago, when Don ruptured his first disc stem, cell treatments were not readily available. But if the same would happen today an unconventional stem cell therapy could be a treatment modality, and chronic pain could be avoided. I am mentioning this here, because Don’s suffering from chronic back pain was causing him a lot of unnecessary suffering. Discectomy surgery, which destabilizes the back and causes scarring, is not the first choice of treatment today.

Stem cell therapy

Instead stem cells are taken from the patient’s fatty tissue (liposuction) and from the bone marrow. A stem cell mix between bone marrow stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells (from fatty tissue) is made. Platelet rich plasma is added to this as an activator. The mix is injected into the disc space of the ruptured disc. Now the stem cells do their magic healing. The beauty of this medical procedure is that healing takes place without any scarring. The stem cells mend all of the damage. They do so by transforming themselves into identical body cells that overbridge broken tissues.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for heart

  1. 2016 study published in the Journal of Physiology describes a study that included adults in their low twenties. Their arms were intermittently exposed to 40.5°C (105°F) water temperature for 60 minutes over a period of 8 weeks. This lowered their blood pressure and caused the arteries in the treatment group to be more flexible.
  2. Scientists in Finland have focused on the benefits of saunas, which is a Scandinavian tradition. Their study in the American Journal of Hypertension followed more than 1,600 middle-age men for almost 25 years. The results showed that the more the men visited saunas, the less they were suffering from high blood pressure. These were the statistics:
  • Visited sauna 2 to 3 times per week: 24% less likely to develop high blood pressure compared to those who had a sauna only once or not at all.
  • Visited sauna 4 to 7 times per week: 46% reduction of blood pressure.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding dementia prevention

2016 study out of Finland found that frequent exposures to saunas could reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Compared to having a sauna only once per week (no reduction of dementia) these were some observations:

  • Visiting the sauna 2-3 times per week: 22% reduction of dementia.
  • Visiting the sauna 4-7 times per week: 66% reduction of dementia.

With regard to Alzheimer’s disease the corresponding figures were a 20% reduction and a 65% reduction.

Benefits of hot baths and saunas for brain injuries

Dr. Burke from the Emory University Rehabilitative Hospital is investigating the benefits of hot baths and saunas regarding brain-injured patients.

He recommends 4 saunas per week for brain-injured patients. Dr. Burke said: “This is one thing that’s passive and easier to do, especially in people who have injured joints who need to keep their brains and hearts in good condition, but can’t physically do some of the exercises.“

Caution regarding benefits of hot baths and saunas

Within 48 hours of a new injury, Dr. Burke says, it is best to use ice packs in order to reduce the swelling of the tissues. But subsequently he switches the patients to heat in form of saunas. Some patients have low blood pressure to start with. They may not be good candidates for hot baths as they may pass out when their already low blood pressure gets a further reduction. Always check with your own doctor before doing hot baths or saunas.

Europe’s history of hot baths and saunas

Saunas have a long history in Finland and in the rest of Europe.

Hot baths have a century-old history in Europe and Japan.

Father Sebastian Kneipp invented hydrotherapy, where cold and hot water baths are applied sequentially. The present resurgence of interest in the benefits of hot baths and saunas for healing purposes is nothing new. What may be new is that the medical profession at large is finally paying attention to the research of Father Sebastian Kneipp. He knew that there were benefits of hot baths and saunas.

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas

Benefits Of Hot Baths And Saunas


There are benefits of hot baths and saunas. This is what was spelled out in the studies cited in this review. The fact that heat can heal was something that Father Sebastian Kneipp knew long time ago. Medical facts have a way to recirculate. But now we know that it can lower blood pressure and can improve the flexibility of arteries. It can help with tissue perfusion and reduce chronic pain. But it also prevents dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition it helps patients with brain injuries to recover faster than without hot baths and saunas.

Advantage of heat treatments

The advantage of heat treatments is the fact that no side effects occur like with the use of drugs. Heat treatments are natural, but drug treatments are artificial. Hot baths and saunas can easily be part of one’s lifestyle. If you feel you need more of it, you can go ahead and do it, but if you feel you don’t need as much, use less. Make it fit into your lifestyle. It is also obvious that too much of a good thing is no longer a good approach to wellness. Limit the temperature in hot baths and don’t exaggerate the time you spend in a hot sauna.


Causes Of Back Pain And Their Treatment

There are many possible causes of back pain and their treatment is described in this blog. I have listed the 10 most common causes of back pain below. I also added brief therapeutic suggestions.

Facet joint disease (lower back strain)

When there is a misalignment of the facet joints, the joint capsules of these small joints are pulled, which can cause severe back pain. Chiropractic or physiotherapy treatments initially followed by active exercises will help (facet joint pain).

Degenerative disc and facet joint disease

Degenerative changes of the disc material between vertebral bodies and osteoarthritis of the facet joints can cause back pain. This is due to irritation of the nerve roots. Anti-inflammatory medication and physiotherapy treatments often help; swimming will be beneficial as well. End stage intractable disease, if confined to one or two levels, may respond to fusion surgery by a spinal surgeon. While you research the surgical option, I suggest you investigate about the possibility of stem cell therapy with PRP (platelet rich plasma). This is less invasive and will likely heal better than conventional surgery.


This is a family of chronic inflammatory joint diseases of the spine . The physician treats the underlying disease and uses anti-inflammatories to control inflammation. Most of all, a person with this condition needs a referral to a rheumatologist for more specific therapy.


Osteoporosis is a bone condition that can lead to compression fractures of the spine. These in turn can irritate one of the nerve roots to lea to radiating pain into one or both legs. The physician will treat the underlying hormone disbalance, if present. Regular walking and swimming are used to remobilize. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and stop smoking. Supplements like calcium, bisphosphonates, vitamin D in higher doses and vitamin K2 can help re-calcify the bone.


Scoliosis is often congenital. This spinal curvature leads to back pain and hurts more the more the spine is curved. Treatment: bracing during growth spurts; good posture; strengthening exercises; in severe cases corrective surgery by a spinal surgeon through the use of Harrington rods.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis is often the end condition of severe degenerative arthritis of the spine. It is more common in the older generation. As this link explains, there is a narrowing of the channel through which the spinal cord travels. In the past decompression surgery for severe cases was the only means to free spinal cord and nerve roots. In the last few years stem cell therapy is a new addition as an alternative to orthopedic surgery. The advantage of stem cell therapy is that there is no scarring following the procedure and the stem cells function like a biological knife from inside.

 Posttraumatic fibromyalgia

Some people develop lower back pain following traumatic injuries. Instead of resolving their muscle sprain, they end up with chronic pain. Often low dose antidepressants and cognitive therapy will help. Mild physical exercises may help to rehabilitate the patient and return to normal muscle mobility. Unconventional therapy like prolotherapy, dry-needling and low-dose laser therapy (Dr. Weber) may be useful.

Disc herniation with or without sciatica

With disc herniation the back pain is intense, which often prompts the orthopedic surgeon to do an early discectomy (back surgery). But long term studies have shown that only in 3% of all acute back pain cases surgery is necessary; many cases heal on their own. In this case the new regenerative medicine approach of stem cell therapy with PRP will give superb clinical results. Stem cells will rebuild the disc and also take care of any arthritis in the small joint along the spine.

Spondylolisthesis and other congenital malformations

There are 4 grades of slipped vertebral body diseases (spondylolisthesis), where grade IV is the most severe case. Grade I to IIIA do not need surgery, stage IIIB and IV need fusion with instrumentation by a spinal surgeon.

Bone metastases

In stage 4 of many cancers metastases travel through the whole body including the skeleton. The underlying cancer needs treatment, often chemotherapy is required. Unfortunately cancers with bone metastases have a very poor prognosis. Here is a link how to manage symptoms of bone metastases.

Causes Of Back Pain And Their Treatment

Causes Of Back Pain And Their Treatment


I have listed the ten most common ones of back pain. For muscle spasms, simple physiotherapy or chiropractic treatment are often very helpful. Early degenerative changes in joints and discs will often respond to anti-inflammatory medication. But anti inflammatory drugs can be hard on your liver and your kidneys. If your back pain is getting more chronic, your doctor may want to arrange for an MRI scan of the area that causes pain. If this shows degenerative change in the discs and facet joints it is time to contact a regenerative medicine clinic. They specialize in stem cell and platelet rich plasma (PRP) treatments. This may be what you need to restore your back to normal. Conventional surgical methods are often the choice, but they are not always successful. Surgery can leave scarring behind, which by itself can give you chronic back pain.