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Physical and Mental Benefit from" Taking the Waters"
Certain types of invalid undoubtedly benefit by a course at some well-established spa. The actual drinking of the waters is, however, only a single factor in the cure; baths, massaqe and a healthy mode of life in pleasant and varied surroundings are very important agents.
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The two principal bathing establishments at Baden-Baden are the most beautiful buildings of their kind in Europe. This finely designed and proportioned rotunda is in the Augusta-Bad, a building reserved for the exclusive use of women and open only during the summer months.
In many a condition of invalidism or ill health the question will arise whether spa treatment would be beneficial, or, if admitted to be of benefit, whether it will be of sufficient benefit to justify the not inconsiderable expense of taking a course of spa treatment away from home. It is sometimes asked whether the use at home of the precise mineral water advocated, either imported or artificially prepared, would not have equally beneficial results.
Only a medical man fully conversant with the health and habits of the health-seeker, and of the nature of the spa treatment advocated, could decide this question in any particular case, but a recognition of two general considerations would help to a decision. In the first place, spa treatment as a whole benefits more particularly one class of incipient or chronic ill health about to be described. In the second, many factors in addition to the use of the waters contribute to the cure effected by a visit to a spa.
It is more particularly for persons in the great working period of middle age with their breakdowns or threatened breakdowns, that all the resources of spa treatment are valuable. The consideration of the young and the aged may be dismissed with a word. On the Continent, for example at La Bourboule in France, the catarrhal conditions and tuberculous glands of delicate children frequently receive benefit from spa treatment and the use of brines and salt waters. In Great Britain, Llanwrtyd is a spa of value in similar cases. But, generally speaking, delicate children and anaemic young people in Britain are treated by sea-water baths or sent to the seaside.
Age requires a warm climate and elderly persons seek one in the south of England or in travel abroad during the winter. But the value of prolonged warm baths of mineral waters at a spa for the senescent is less recognized in Britain than abroad.
With middle age it is different. It is the working period of life. Brain workers in the professions and in the office grudge time for health recuperation. Over-fatigue, sleeplessness, mental depression, palpitation, gastric over-acidity are the signs of an incipient breakdown. Business and profession make social claims on the middle-aged. Numerous cocktails, over-eating, little or no exercise even week-ends taken in a motor car, threaten neurasthenia, gout, high blood pressure, cardiac spasm or relaxation, tachycardia, many times also glycosuria (diabetes) and obesity.
II health so produced requires prompt removal of the sufferer from his routine of work and bad habits. Unfortunately, spa physicians are often asked to do the work of three months or more in three weeks or less. The disciplined treatment and relaxation of a spa is often the promptest method of effecting a return to health.
The factors in a cure, which such middleaged health-seekers cannot get by treatment at home, are many. The cure, so effected, cannot be ascribed merely to "taking the waters." The factors differ from spa to spa, but, generally speaking, the following aids to a cure are to be sought for.
The baths at Wiesbaden are built over a number of ancient saline hot springs. The waters are chiefly used for chronic rheumatism, gout and respiratory disorders. The photograph shows the hydro-therapeutic department in the Kaiser Friedrich Bad.
Aids to a Cure.
First, the life is lived largely in the open air. The spa is a place with climatic advantages. It has the benefits of pure air, free from smoke, often of some rareness from the altitude at which the spa is placed. The spa should be bathed in sunlight. Screens of trees to protect from cold winds or excessive sunlight, well-kept parks and avenues, seats and shelters affording extensive views over beautiful scenery, allow and encourage an open-air life.
In the second place, repose or exercise, according to the spa chosen is allowed for. A quiet spa up among the hills is of value for the over-tired brain worker, while the encouragement to exercise given by well ordered, graduated slopes, with magnificent views, as at many German spas, or by ordered avenues, as at Spa, brings about the change of habits desired for a sedentary worker.
A third factor in the cure is a new occupation for the mind. On the one hand, the excitement and worry of business enterprise, the ceaseless round of dinner parties and society engagements, may be replaced by the rest, quiet and soothing of nature; on the other hand, the quiet of a dull life may find its antithesis in the gaiety of a fashionable resort, according to the spa chosen.
Then there are the factors in a cure more particularly proper to the spa, and dealt with at length under the names of each. These are the mineral waters special to the spa, used for drinking or bathing, and such accessory methods of treatment as massage, physical exercises, electrical and light therapeutic measures, as well as the particular milk, grape or other cure only obtainable in the climate of the particular spa.
Raising the body temperature and free sweating contribute to the cure of complaints of a chronic rheumatic nature by improving metabolism and getting rid of deleterious waste matters. The apparatus shown here may successfully accomplish these purposes. Left, the apparatus opened up; electric bulbs contribute to the heating, but there are also steam vents beneath the couch. Right, in operation; cold cloths are put on the patient's head.
With the Rectangular Bath, this Circular Bath ranks amongst the finest Roman remains in Europe. It is situated beneath the new building, an inscription on which declares truly that "in grandeur, in completeness, the Baths of Aquae Sulis were unequalled," and that still is "their virtue unimpaired; their volume unabated; their heat undiminished
The Pump Room is freely open as a lounge as well as to visitors taking the cure. The water is supplied from a fountain in the alcove directly supplied by the King's Bath spring, the oldest of the baths and the fashionable one ofthe eighteenth ceniury.
Finally, and perhaps one of the chief factors in the cure, there is what may be called the psychical factor. A bad routine of life is suddenly to be changed into a good routine, and this in many cases for persons over-tired, accustomed to be their own masters and intolerant of restrictions or resenting lack of comforts or indulgenccs.
How can it be done ?
Only where everyone is doing it, and it would be strange not to do it. In these conditions a limitation of diet can be imposed, habits of exercise encouraged, mental activities curtailed, and all this without the patient becoming preoccupied and morbid from thoughts of his own disability or breakdown. In all well-ordered spas the discipline is an essential part of the cure.
Arranging for Spa Treatment.
If spa treatment is contemplated, the general course of events would be as follows. The healthseeker should seek the advice of a medical man fully conversant with his health and habits, and not only learn from him whether his condition is suitable for spa treatment and which spa should be visited, but also ascertain whether some preliminary treatment at home is required before spa treatment can be undertaken. When ready for spa treatment, the patient should get an introduction from his doctor to a medical man at the spa and should place himself under his care.
Medical supervision while under spa treatment is essential. Only so can the patient learn whether to drink the waters warm or cold, in what quantities, how often to take the baths and so forth, with such modifications in the treatment as his condition requires.