BACKGROUND: Spring water therapies have been used since at least 1550 BC. Despite the growing body of evidence supporting these therapies for a range of conditions, including musculoskeletal, dermatological, respiratory and cardiovascular conditions, they do not currently form part of mainstream healthcare in many countries. The protocol established in this paper aims to support systematic reviews that examine the health outcomes associated with human exposure to regional spring waters, using the Australia and New Zealand context as a case study.
METHODS/DESIGN: The protocol searches for studies in eight health/medical databases, searches three local health/medical journals, and includes forwards and backwards searching. Standard systematic review methods are used including: specifying pre-determined inclusion criteria and data management plans, appraising the studies for bias, and allocation to a hierarchy of evidence.
DISCUSSION: The protocol supports a review and comprehensive synthesis of the current evidence regarding the health effects of natural spring water, and can be adapted for reviews in other regions. From this evidence, recommendations regarding practice and future research can be made on the therapeutic role of spring water.