A sitz bath (also called a hip bath) is a type of bath in which only the hips and buttocks are soaked in water or saline solution. Its name comes from the German verb "sitzen," meaning "to sit."
A sitz bath is used for patients who have had surgery in the area of the rectum, or to ease the pain of hemorrhoids, uterine cramps, prostate infections, painful ovaries, and/or testicles. It is also used to ease discomfort from infections of the bladder, prostate, or vagina. Inflammatory bowel diseases are also treated with sitz baths.
Some patients may become dizzy when standing up after sitting in hot water; it is best to have someone else present when doing a contrast sitz bath.
The sitz bath is a European tradition in which only the pelvis and abdominal area are placed in water, with the upper body, arms, legs, and feet out of the water. The water can be warm or cool and one or two tubs may be used.
Warm sitz baths are one of the easiest and most effective ways to ease the pain of hemorrhoids. A warm bath is also effective in lessening the discomfort associated with genital herpes, uterine cramps, and other painful conditions in the pelvic area.
For prostate pain, patients should take two hot sitz baths a day, for about 15 minutes each.
To ease discomfort from a vaginal yeast infection, women should take a warm saline sitz bath. To prepare, fill the tub to hip height with warm water and add 1/2 c of salt (enough to make the water taste salty) and 1/2 vinegar. Sit in the bath for 20 minutes (or until the water gets cool). The vinegar will help bring the vaginal pH back to 4.5 (pH is a measurement of how acid or alkaline a fluid is).
A brief, cool sitz bath helps ease inflammation, constipation, and vaginal discharge. It can be used to tone the muscles in cases of bladder or bowel incontinence.
Other conditions respond to a "contrast bath" of both hot and cold. For this a patient should have a tub of hot water (about 110°F/43°C) and one tub of ice water. The patient should sit in the hot water for three to four minutes and in the cold for 30-60 seconds. This is repeated three to five times, always ending with the cold water.
If two tubs are not handy, the patient may sit in a hot bath (up to the navel). Then the patient stands up in the water and pulls a cold towel between the legs and over the pelvis in front and back. The cold towel is held in place for up to 60 seconds. Then the patient should sit back into the hot bath, and repeat the process 3-5 times, ending with the cold towel.
The bath should be filled with 3-4 in (8-10cm) of water. For most conditions, nothing else should be added (no bubble bath or oil).
The area should be carefully patted dry and, if necessary, clean dressings should be applied.
Sitz baths pose almost no risk. On rare occasions, patients can feel dizzy or experience rapid heart beat because of blood vessel dilation.
Swelling goes down; discomfort is eased; healing is promoted.
pH— A standard laboratory test that measures how acidic or alkaline a solution is.
Saline solution— Another word for salt water.