Sometimes, a regular bath just doesn't do the trick. Furthermore, it can be difficult to take a regular bath if you have an injury that prevents you from moving like you normally would, or when you need to clean your lower abdominal area without getting the rest of your body wet.
Enter the sitz bath. These types of baths aren't very widely used, but they can be effective treatments for a variety of health conditions or as recovery tools if you've had surgery or recently given birth. Let's dive into these baths and explain how you might be able to use them for healing.
What Is a Sitz Bath, Really?
A sitz bath (also called a sit bath) is characterized as a shallow bath with a varying temperature of the water from cool or warm water or hot water. It was historically drawn in a specially shaped bathtub like a shell, which offered support for the back and legs at the knees. The lower abdomen, including the buttocks, perineum, lower legs and waist.
It’s a specialized type of bath for specific purposes; you don’t use a sitz bath just to get clean.
When Do You Use Them?
Sitz baths are used to accelerate the healing process and soothe irritation in the lower abdominal area or the genitals. It’s not a direct cure for any condition, but it can make you feel a lot better or it can make other recovery efforts a little more successful.
Most people use sitz bath for conditions like:
- Anal fissures, which are tears at the anus' opening
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Prostatitis, which affects the prostate gland
- Vaginal tearing or cysts
- Tears at the perineum, which is the space between the anal area and vagina – sometimes women get these when they give birth
- For general relief from soreness, inflammation, and burning
Sitz baths may be considered home remedies since they don’t need any doctor’s prescription. Some people will sit in these kinds of baths regularly to cleanse their perineum. Others may use these to relieve irritation or discomfort after having surgery in the lower abdominal or genital areas.
The History of Sitz Baths
When and where sitz baths first came to be is something of a fuzzy subject. There are reports of people taking baths specifically to soothe certain areas of their body as early as Roman times – a period also famously known for public baths, which were far from hygienic.
However, a sitz bath as we know it today can first be seen for sure in 1842 in Malvern, Britain. It was originally used to treat several lower abdominal complaints. At the time, people believed that this treatment would encourage blood vessels to contract, which would in turn be a treatment for liver obstruction, constipation, and stomach congestion.
It’s possible that sitz baths were first invented at an earlier point, but any evidence is hard to find.
How Do You Draw a Sitz Bath?
You can draw a sitz bath in a variety of ways depending on what you have available.
For a regular tub:
- You should clean your tub thoroughly by first mixing 1-2 tablespoons of bleach with a half-gallon of water
- Scrub the surface of the tub, then rinse the surface thoroughly. This sanitizes the space where your infected or irritated area will be touching
If you have a sitz bath kit:
- Some people can buy plastic sitz bath kits that fit over the standard toilet. You should rinse this kit with clean water before using it, of course. Add warm water beforehand, plus any medications that your doctor might have recommended
- Open your toilet, then place the bath into the toilet bowl. It should fit snugly within the aperture; you can test this by trying to move it from side to side to see if it’ll shift easily
- The kit should come with tubing and a plastic bag that will both hold the water for the time being and allow you to easily dispose of it in the toilet after you’re done. It should also have a vent that will stop the water from overflowing
A sitz bath only ever requires a few inches of water: 3-4 inches is good enough for most people. The layer rarely reaches over the front of your lap or over your stomach. A Sitz bath usually not taken with shower gels, beads, bubble baths, soaps, or any other chemicals or components: it’s just plain water. Most people choose to take sitz baths with lukewarm water to assist with blood flow and general comfort, although some may prefer cool water depending on the irritation they’re experiencing.
Regardless, you’ll soak your affected area for between 15 and 20 minutes. If you have a kit and a plastic bag, you can add more warm water, as the original liquid begins to cool for added comfort.
When you are done dry yourself by gently patting the sore or infected area with a towel. Then rinse and clean either the bathtub or the sitz bath kit thoroughly.
Can You Take Sitz Baths With Other Bath Products?
Despite the trend of plain water, some doctors may prescribe medications or additives depending on what the sitz bath is meant to treat. For instance, they might recommend that you add povidone-iodine; this is an element that has some antibacterial properties. You can also add additional home ingredients like baking soda, vinegar, or epsom salt. These can combine to create a soothing solution to relieve you.
Or you can look for helpful bath products, like Green Goo’s Sitz Bath. This herbal remedy is designed to progressively release its various ingredients and healing components throughout a sitz bath. It features several natural components designed to soothe the skin and assist with the postnatal healing process.
Like most products of this type, adding it to a sitz bath is pretty easy. All you need to do is place the Sitz Bath “tea bag” into the tub or sitz bath container. Fill the tub with warm water after the bag has already been placed at the bottom to make sure as much water as possible flows through the ingredients contained inside. Then, let your affected tissues soak for about 10 minutes. The bag can be used 2-3 times before it’s no longer effective.
Are Sitz Baths Really Good for Promoting Healing?
There’s something to be said for leaving the body to its natural processes you need to recover from something serious like childbirth. Additionally, natural ingredients or products that use herbal solutions are often gentler on bodily tissues and can be more comfortable than traditional medical solutions.
To that end, sitz baths are likely excellent solutions for your healing needs. They’re extremely gentle, they don’t require you to take invasive medical products into your body, and they don’t use synthetic ingredients. All they do is make your body’s job easier over time.
You can also combine a sitz bath with other effective healing solutions and salves. These should be applied after you step out of the sitz bath, of course. But they can accelerate your healing process even further.
For instance, Green Goo’s First Aid Salve is a plant-based solution that can promote the healing abilities of your own body. It’s packed with several effective active ingredients like flower oils, leaf extracts, Myrrh resin, and soothing oils. The mixture combines to soothe your skin, improves blood flow, reduce the chance of infection, and help you be comfortable as you recover.
Are There Any Risk Factors?
Sitz baths aren’t very risky, as they aren’t invasive.. Furthermore, if you take one of these baths correctly, the water or the bathtub itself shouldn’t facilitate infection of the perineum or any other opening or wound.
However, there is a small possibility of infection if you have a surgical wound and you don't properly clean the tub. Always use clean water to avoid this, and clean the bathtub thoroughly between baths.
All in all, sitz bath is an effective self-care activities you can use to help your body heal more quickly and find some relief from private discomforts. They’re not hard to set up and they can be combined with effective, natural products for even greater effects. Sitz baths are recommended for women who’ve given birth, for people who've had surgery on their genitals or perineum, or anyone else who wants to keep that area clean and healthy.