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Doctor, I have fibromyalgia. Would spa therapy help my symptoms?

Spa therapy at specialized centres improves symptoms due to fibromyalgia.

What is the evidence?


Immediate spa therapy vs delayed spa therapy for treatment of fibromyalgia

Outcome at 6 monthsDelayed Spa TherapyImmediate Spa TherapyEffect
Proportion of people who experienced reduction in their symptom score (FIQ) compared to the beginning of the study

28 out of 100 people

45 out of 100 people

17 more people who had spa therapy had improvement in their symptoms compared to people who were on the wait list for spa therapy

FIQ = Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire asks a patient to rate their physical functioning, ability to work, pain, fatigue, stiffness, morning tiredness, anxiety and depression; higher score = more severe disease; a drop of 14% is considered to be a change that most people would notice

What kind of study was this?

This was a randomized controlled trial.

Who? This study included 220 people (average age 49; 90% women) with moderate to severe fibromyalgia for over a year with no changes to their pain-related treatments within the previous 3 months.

What? The study compared Immediate Spa Therapy with Delayed Spa Therapy. All participants were allowed to continue their usual treatments.

Immediate Spa Therapy


Delayed Spa Therapy

3-week stay at specialized spa therapy facilities in France where they received a combination of the following for 6 days per week for 18 days total: hydromassage baths, hydro-mineral mud applications, body jet showers, water affusion massages, mineral water pool supervised exercises

Optional additions: attendance at a conference about fibromyalgia, weekly walking training sessions and using the spa gym

Continue their usual treatments until 6 months after enrollment in the study than they received the same spa therapy as described for the immediate spa therapy group

Why was this research done?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain lasting for at least 3 months without any apparent inflammation or damage to tissues. People with fibromyalgia often also experience fatigue, depression, anxiety and sleep problems. Researchers wanted to know if spa therapy would improve the symptoms of fibromyalgia. The results showed that there is a small benefit in spa therapy that seems to last beyond the time of the treatments. It is important to note that these treatments occurred at specialized spa centres.

This Evidence Summary is based on the following article:

Maindet C, Maire A, Vermorel C, et al. Spa Therapy for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia: An Open, Randomized Multicenter Trial. J Pain. 2021 Mar 4. pii: S1526-5900(21)00031-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2021.02.010. PubMed

Published: Wednesday, May 19, 2021
Last Updated: Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Please note that the information contained herein is not to be interpreted as an alternative to medical advice from a professional healthcare provider. If you have any questions about any medical matter, you should consult your professional healthcare providers, and should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice or discontinue medication based on information provided here.