Imagine lying on a massage table, a thick layer of mud smoothed across your skin with long deep strokes to help it sink in. For thousands of years, Traditional Medicine has considered “mudding” (aka mud bath, mud wrap) therapeutic for the skin, joints, muscles, and the mind. Today, in spas around the world, mud-based treatments are promoted for stress reduction, healing skin ailments, and relieving joint pain. 

What’s mud got to with health?

Therapeutic mud contains minerals such as sulfur, zinc, magnesium, and bromine. These compounds are often blended with other botanical extracts (e.g., Aloe vera, organic peat, volcanic ash, warm mineral water or salt-water) and applied via various massage methods. The body reaps the health benefits of the minerals by way of direct absorption through the skin into the bloodstream; the mind reaps the benefits of the state of relaxation, associated with lower stress level, pain relief, reduced inflammatory response, and other mental and physical benefits.

Does mudding work for Osteoarthritis?

There is limited research on the effects of mudding on any specific health condition. For osteoarthritis (OA), a cumulative review of dozens of high-quality studies indicates short-term relief of pain for knee osteoarthritis. However, many of these studies did not distinguish which elements of the mud and what concentrations of ingredients made the most difference. This is important for two reasons:

1. Muds can come from all over the world: California, Florida, Hawaii, Jordan, Israel (Dead Sea minerals), Europe, island nations, and glacial nations. Where the mud comes from affects the composition, which may be a factor in its effects on health. 

2. Muds can be organic/naturally sourced or entirely lab-created (a synthetic based on the properties of a mud derived from nature). What we make in a lab is usually not equivalent to what we find in nature.

If you have OA, you might want to try mudding as it is relatively safe for most people. Before going to a spa for any treatment, ask questions about the product ingredients, where it comes from, and how often stock is rotated for purity. Share the information with your personal physician to determine if mudding may be a good option for you.

Covid-19 considerations

Check your local spas and massage studios as to whether they are open.  Many counties in California are only open currently for medical massage – that is massage that a doctor has ordered. This situation will be changing over time, so if you want to try out mudding, you’ll not only need to find a place that does it, but make sure they are open.  

References

Hou, Chengzhi et al. “The short-term efficacy of mud therapy for knee osteoarthritis: A meta-analysis.” Medicine vol. 99,17 (2020): e19761. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000019761 Accessed 4 Aug 2020 

Fraioli, Antonio et al. “Efficacy of Spa Therapy, Mud-Pack Therapy, Balneotherapy, and Mud-Bath Therapy in the Management of Knee Osteoarthritis. A Systematic Review.” BioMed research international vol. 2018 1042576. 25 Jun. 2018, doi:10.1155/2018/1042576  Accessed 4 Aug 2020  

PiedmontHealth.org “Are mud baths good for your skin?” Accessed 6 August 2020