Martedì 21 Aprile 2009



From the "Star City of Stars " to "Health City"

Spa treatments for five Russian astronauts who lived for months on the Mir space station. The bromo-iodine-salt water of Salsomaggiore (Parma) solved the problems caused by space flights, such as osteoporosis, immune system depression and muscular weakness. For eight days the astronauts followed a cycle of baths, massages and inhalations. Amongst them was a record-holder, with a stay of 635 days in space.

The spa water, already appreciated long ago by the Romans, provided a solution for the problems of long stays in space, essential to open a new phase of interplanetary voyages. This is what the five Russian cosmonauts who came to Salsomaggiore declared, commenting on their treatment sessions at the Wellness Centre of the Grand Hotel Porro. From Star City, the Russian space training centre, to the Health City of Salsomaggiore to overcome the negative effects of space flight. The spa’s medical team, guided by health director Giorgio Varacca, scrupulously followed the return to perfect condition of Vladimir Aleksandrovich Shatalov (72), Anatoly Yakovlevich Solovyev (51, world record holder with 635 days in space), Valery Grigoryevich Korzun (46), Aleksandr Fyodorovich Poleshchuk (46) and Gennady Ivanovich Padalka (41), who undertook long flights on the Mir space station orbiting the world at an altitude of 400 km, in missions that wrote the history of humanity. But space flight also leads to so-called “oxidative stress”, which reduces immune capacities and causes premature aging. These negative effects were studied by Milan University, the IDI Immaculate Dermopathic Institute in Rome and the Yuri Gagarin Space Research Centre in Russia. “The absence of gravity during work on the Mir space station,” explains Umberto Solimene, director of Milan University’s medical bioclimatology research centre and a consultant for Star City, “inevitably puts a great strain on the human organism, causing diseases like osteoporosis and anaemia, and weakening the muscles. For the entire duration of the space flight the loss of calcium from bones never ceases, proceeding at a constant rate of about 1% less of bone mass per month. This is a situation that recalls osteoporosis caused by aging, linked with a greater risk of kidney stones as a consequence of a higher concentration of calcium in the blood filtered by the kidneys.” The waters of Salsomaggiore, of marine origin, were chosen by the scientists because they have one of the highest densities of mineral salts among natural waters. It seems curious that it is from the sea that the solution for a return to health after a space flight comes. The waters leave the wells at a density of 16 Baumé degrees (1 Baumé degree corresponds to about 11 grams of salt per litre). This is saltier than the Mediterranean Sea, which has a density of only about 3 Baumé degrees. This characteristic allows cases of arthrosis with osteoporosis to be treated with baths in special hydromassage tubs, and the advantages offered go well beyond beneficial treatment of the symptoms, as spa therapies can lead to a reduction or suspension of pharmacological treatments. Other cosmonauts currently in orbit are expected to visit Salsomaggiore. “The cosmonauts themselves,” adds Umberto Solimene, “recognize the great validity of hydrokinesitherapy, meaning muscular rehabilitation in water, which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects, both at a general level and locally. The high density of salt makes it easier to float, comparable to a reduction in gravity. Movements in water become much easier to make. In this pathology, it is possible in just a few sessions to improve the articulations of the muscular-skeletal segments being rehabilitated, and to give muscles better trophism and tone.” For eight days the astronauts followed a programme of baths in bromo-iodine-salt water, hydromassage, body massages and underwater massages to the legs, all treatments that allowed the recovery times for the Mir crew to be reduced. The same is also true for the sport champions who for many years have chosen this spa. It is no mere coincidence that the Italian men’s volleyball team, world champions for the third consecutive time, trains every year at Salsomaggiore. Many football teams, including Atalanta, Sampdoria and Torino, prefer Salsomaggiore for part of their pre-season training preparations. Inhalations are also highly beneficial for the cosmonauts, as they are applied with “Mother Water”, from which sodium chloride has been removed, consequently giving a higher concentration of other salts. The five space travellers had the entire spa park of 1300 square metres of the Grand Hotel Porro***S at their disposal, with the possibility of being able to benefit from all conventional spa treatments, in addition to hot aromatic baths, horizontal showers with manual massage, Turkish baths, a solarium and physical exercise, and in a quiet corner they were also able to drink herbal tisanes. The scientists also preferred the Grand Hotel Porro for the extreme peace and quiet that it offers, surrounded by a park with centuries-old trees. There was no special diet for the five astronauts, except for a hydropinic water recommended for possible cases of kidney stones, such as the water of the Sant’Andrea Spa. After eating nothing but food in tubes for months, the five astronauts greatly appreciated the “stars” of local Parma cuisine, like Culatello salami, Parma ham, Parmesan cheese, tortelli noodles stuffed with greens, and other delicacies prepared by the Grand Hotel Porro chef.


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