Speleotherapy is a treatment based on the use of the natural properties of salt mines, grottos, excavations, karst caves (spelaion from the Greek – cave). Is one of the most effective non-pharmacological methods of treatment and rehabilitation of patients with respiratory diseases.
The history of speleotherapy goes back many centuries, to the time of ancient Greece and ancient Italy (VI-V centuries. BC.) and counts about 2500 years. However, the first scientific information about the therapeutic effect of the caves appeared in the XIX century, and relatively widespread caving therapy gets after the Second World War, first in Germany and Austria, then in Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
During the Second World War, the karst cave Klütert, located in Germany, in North Westphalia, was used as a bomb shelter. It was noticed that people with ALS who were in these bomb shelters stopped having attacks of suffocation, coughing, and breathing became easier. Since 1945, the Klütertert cave has been used for therapeutic purposes for respiratory diseases. In 1949, a German doctor, Dr. K.H. Spannagel (K.H. Spannagel) proposed the establishment of an inpatient department in the cave Klütertertert in order to make systematic climatological and medical observations to confirm the effectiveness of speleotherapy. The results of these studies laid the foundation for modern speleotherapy.
Since 1955, the Solbad-Soltzelmann Salt Cave in Austria and the Gombaseckie Caves in Slovakia have been used for the treatment of patients with respiratory diseases.
In Poland since 1958 operates Wieliczka Salt Mines Speleotherapy, which is better known for hiking trails, underground restaurants, museum, but there is also an underground hospital at a depth of 135 m. Underground Medicine is located in the oldest salt mine in Poland Bochnia, 40 km east of Krakow.
In Bulgaria, speleotherapy has also been practiced since the 1950s. The beneficial effects of medical factors in the cave Magura contribute to a milder course of AL.
In Ukraine, the development of speleotherapy began in 1968 with the opening of the first in the USSR underground hospital of the Regional Allergological Hospital in Solotvyno.
Since 1969, speleotherapy as a method of medical treatment is officially recognized in Hungary.
Since 1977 the first not only in Russia, but also in the world sylvinite speleotherapy in a potassium mine on the Verkhnekamskoe deposit of potassium salts (Berezniki, Perm region) operates.
Since May 2007, speleosanatorium “Salt Symphony” in Soledar, Donetsk region began accepting patients.
The formation and development of the speleotherapy method in the Republic of Belarus is connected with the development and exploitation of the Starobinskiy potassium salt deposit, which began in 1958 with the construction of the 1st potassium plant and the town of Soligorsk.
The introduction of speleotherapy took place in several stages.
At the beginning of the 70s of the XX century N.E. Savchenko, the Minister of Public Health of the BSSR, taking into account the experience of the effective use of speleotherapy in the Solotva speleological caves of the Ukraine, took the initiative to introduce the speleotherapy in Belarus on the basis of the functioning potassium mine.
The staff of the Belarusian Research Sanitary-Hygienic Institute (now the State Institution “Republican Scientific and Practical Center of Hygiene and Epidemiology”) studied the conditions of the environment formation in the mines of potassium mines and the specific effects of the underground environment on the human body, which allowed to substantiate and implement in practice the creation of a new direction in medicine – treatment by speleotherapy.
In 1980 the Chief Allergist of the BSSR Ministry of Health, Doctor of Medicine, Professor N.A. Skepian applied to the BSSR Ministry of Health with the letter, proposing to use the potassium mine for the treatment of patients with bronchopulmonary pathology in the underground conditions.
The Decision of the BSSR Council of Ministers No.41 of February, 5, 1986, decided to build the 120-bed speleological hospital in Salihorsk and the underground speleological complex on the basis of the first potassium mine of the “Belaruskali” Company.
In 1990 the first underground speleotherapy department was put into operation.
On February 5, 1990 the first 33 patients (20 from Minsk region, 10 from Minsk, 2 from Mogilev region and 1 from Russia) were admitted for treatment.
The ground building of the Republican hospital for speleotherapy (120 beds) was put into operation in 1997.
Since July 2, 2012 the second dormitory building and the second underground speleotherapy department have been put into operation.
Since January 2013, the Republican Speleotherapy Hospital has a structural subdivision – branch “Children’s Department “Green Forest” for 200 beds, where children from 6 to 17 years old are treated and recuperated. Children over 10 years old receive a course of speleotherapy as part of organized groups in the hospital’s underground speleological complex.
The capacity of the Republican Speleotherapy Hospital is 450 beds.