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A sitz bath is a type of bath in which your hips and buttocks are soaked in water. It is generally employed to facilitate healing and alleviation of symptoms of health problems such as hemorrhoids or genital issues, including pain after childbirth.
The term sitz bath is derived from the German word sitzbad, which means a bath (bad) in which one sits (sitzen). (1)
In Ayurveda, a sitz bath is referred to as kati snaana. It is one of a number of treatments used in the water cure and is used to alleviate lower abdomen complaints.
Read on to find out how you can perform a sitz bath at home and what the benefits are.
How Does a Sitz Bath Work?
The theory regarding how a sitz bath alleviates pain is undefined. A study aimed at elucidating the physiological mechanism of sitz baths in relation to decreasing pain and edema.
The study hypothesized that a warm sitz bath can help lessen pain by loosening up the internal anal sphincter, resulting in a reduction in the rectal pressure and internal anal sphincter activity via the thermo-sphincter reflex (temperature-dependent activity change of anal sphincter). (4)
Benefits of a Sitz Bath
Taking a sitz bath can benefit your health in the following ways:
1. Treats hemorrhoids (piles)
Hemorrhoids are described as the enlargement and displacement of the normal anal cushions that happen when the external hemorrhoidal veins are enlarged or swollen (known as varicose veins).
This often causes burning, itching, pain, anal swelling, and other signs and symptoms. Difficulty in defecating and bleeding may also occur.
Effective therapy for this disease can be brought about by improving fiber intake via diet, increasing fluid consumption, and using stool softeners or antihemorrhoidal creams. But over the years, sitz bath has been recognized for its role in hemorrhoids.
A study demonstrated that a treatment protocol for hemorrhoids that included a sitz bath was helpful. It showed immensely better outcomes in patients using sitz baths than those using an antihemorrhoidal anorectal cream. These outcomes help plan a standard management protocol for hemorrhoidal diseases. (5)
2. Lessens discomfort following childbirth
Pregnancy is a natural phenomenon or a condition where women experience severe physical, physiological, metabolic, and psychological changes with modifications of internal and external organs.
hThese changes can exacerbate existing chronic diseases or even cause new ones. During pregnancy, blood transport to the internal anal sphincter decreases. Moreover, pregnancy, childbirth, and the time duration after childbirth certainly inflate the risk of hemorrhoids or pelvic floor dysfunction.
The most common anorectal diseases during pregnancy and after childbirth are perianal thrombosis and internal hemorrhoids. They cause serious pain and discomfort.
It is advised that new mothers after childbirth should be treated using conventional remedies such as warm sitz baths, which enhance blood circulation in the anal tissue and lessen pain or discomfort following childbirth. Most women show resolution of their symptoms with interventions such as sitz baths. (6)
3. Helps improve vaginal cysts
The Bartholin gland is a mucus-secreting gland found near the vagina whose function is vaginal lubrication. Bartholin glands are commonly seen with cysts and abscesses, especially after puberty.
A vaginal cyst such as Bartholin’s cyst is a benign obstruction of the Bartholin gland that is asymptomatic and, therefore, incidentally diagnosed during a pelvic exam.
Research has shown that asymptomatic Bartholin cysts do not need much treatment. Such Bartholin cysts or abscesses can be dealt with using sitz baths and analgesics.
Even for those who require CO2 laser surgery, sitz baths are recommended for a few days as post-operative care. Nurses are advised to explain to patients with vaginal cysts how to conduct sitz baths for symptomatic relief. (7)
4. Heals anal fissures
An anal fissure can be defined as a tear in the anal lining. It can cause a lot of pain and even bleeding while defecating.
While the condition usually heals itself in a few weeks, patients often face a lot of discomfort and there is a need for an intervention for symptomatic relief.
In one study, after only a week or two, symptomatic relief was reported by patients treated with sitz baths. The relief was, in fact, better than in those who were treated with a topical anesthetic such as lignocaine ointment or hydrocortisone ointment.
The study also demonstrated that those treated with sitz baths had a higher number of healed fissures, thereby demonstrating that warm sitz baths can be the treatment of choice for an acute episode of anal fissure.
This remedy not only is inexpensive but also has no potential side effects and provides reasonable and quick relief of symptoms. (8)
5. Fights pelvic inflammatory disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is a type of infection that affects the female reproductive organs. They’re therefore also known as pelvic infections.
Research has shown that sitz baths may be useful in the disinfection of the affected organ by discouraging the growth of infectious agents while strengthening the organ.
Experts explain that sitz baths are a simple, noninvasive, and adequate mode of treatment for numerous gynecological disorders such as pelvic infections as they improve pelvic circulation and diminish the swelling of tissues, itch, and soreness of vaginal tissues. (1)
6. Helps with prostate diseases
Prostate disorders are quite commonly seen disorders in urology. Benign prostatic hyperplasia, prostate cancer, and chronic prostatitis are the vastly frequent ones.
Studies have shown that sitz baths are helpful in managing prostate issues and relieving symptoms such as pelvic pain. (9)
How to Perform a Sitz Bath?
Sitz bath using the bathtub
- Clean your bathtub thoroughly and scrub off any dirt.
- Add 3–4 inches of water to the clean tub. Make sure the temperature of the water is just warm enough (not to exceed 120°F) and not too hot that it may cause burns or uneasiness.
- Add any salt recommended by your healthcare professional to the bathtub.
- Get in the tub and ensure you submerge your perineum in the water.
- Continue doing this for around 15 minutes.
- Pat yourself dry with a clean cloth.
Sitz bath using a kit
- Open your sitz bath kit and go through the instruction manual.
- Clean the kit as instructed in the manual.
- Place the sitz bath into the open toilet.
- Add warm water (not to exceed 120°F) to the kit tub to the level indicated in the instructions (water should be enough to submerge your perineum).
- Add any medicine/salt suggested by your doctor.
- Continue the bath for roughly 15 minutes.
- Pat your anal area dry with a clean cloth.
Are Sitz Baths Safe? Are There Side Effects?
Performing a sitz bath is a fairly controversial technique but is considered safe. Nonetheless, some side effects have been documented including infection and perineal burn.
The spread of infection was because of the sharing of sitz bathtubs between patients.
A study also registered an incident where a patient acquired a perineal scald burn due to reduced sensation after a spine surgery.
There can be burn injuries if the temperature of water is too high. These accidental burns are generally serious, and in numerous patients, they have to be dealt with by surgical methods. Hot objects such as heating pads or sitz baths can cause such burns, which are employed for symptomatic relief. (3)(11)
Additional Tips for Patients With Anorectal Disorders
Here are some tips you can follow if you suffer from anorectal problems: (11)
- Do not rub or scratch the anal region.
- Rinse the anal region with only water and avoid using soap.
- Be certain to clean up the anal region following a bowel movement.
- Do not use abrasive toilet paper.
- Wear loose and comfortable underwear.
- Eat a fiber-rich diet.
- Drink 8–10 glasses of water daily.
- Avoid colas, spicy foods, citrus foods, coffee, beer, nuts, dairy products, tomatoes, and other such foods and beverages.
Most-Asked Questions About a Sitz Bath
What to put in a sitz bath?
What to add to your sitz bath is advised by your doctor. However, some commonly suggested things by professionals to add to sitz baths include Epsom salt, baking soda, and aloe vera.
Can I take a sitz bath in the bathtub?
Yes, you can take a sitz bath in your tub.
Where can I buy a sitz bath?
You can buy a sitz bath kit in pharmacies or ask your doctor where to get a sitz bath kit.
How long should I take a sitz bath?
A sitz bath can be done for 10–15 minutes each time.
What are the types of sitz baths?
Sitz baths can be of four types:
- Hot sitz bath
- Cold sitz bath
- Neutral sitz bath
- Alternate hot and cold sitz bath
What are the contraindications?
- Pressure sores
- Open wounds or bleeding
Studies have demonstrated that sitz baths play a significant role in providing thermal and mechanical effects as part of the curative treatment of patients.
Physicians have advised the use of sitz baths in gynecological and anorectal disorders as they seem to be extremely useful and safe for the patients.