The sitz bath, a form of localized hydrotherapy, is an easy, relatively quick solution for increasing blood flow to specific parts of the body. One of the benefits of localized treatments is they can easily be done multiple times per day. Sitz baths frequently focus on the pelvis and abdominal regions, though they can be used for all body extremities, such as hands and feet. Sitz baths can be done either in the bathtub or in a specially designed shallow basin (actually called a sitz bath) filled with water and placed on top of a toilet seat. In the case of soaking a hand or foot, a bowl or basin is used. Therapeutic sitz baths can be given with either hot or cold water or a combination of hot/cold water, depending on the given situation. If you have access to a bidet, you could use the continual stream of hot or cold water as an alternative to soaking in a sitz bath.
A hot sitz bath is useful for issues such as anal hemorrhoids, genital herpes or cysts, episiotomy recovery, testicle pain and localized muscle spasms. They can be useful for painful ovaries or uterine cramps, though generally one might prefer a full sized bath, which offers the obvious advantage and pleasure of full body relaxation.
A cold sitz bath is best known to relieve postpartum swelling, vaginal infection, constipation, and inflammation. It can be used to tone muscles in the event of bladder or sometimes bowel incontinence.
An alternating hot and cold sitz bath can be effective for foot infections and ankle edema.
*Please note that for this and all hydrotherapy treatments, purified bathing water is essential. The section Remedies for Treating Chlorinated Bath Water offers clear instructions and recommendations.
Fill the sitz bath, be it bowl, bucket, basin, or atop the toilet with enough water to sit so your hips are submerged while your legs and torso remain above water. If possible, have your feet immersed in another basin of slightly warmer water.
When taking a hot sitz bath, the water temperature should be around 110º F. Soak 20-40 minutes, and follow with a quick cold shower or bath. For prostate pain, you could take two hot sitz baths a day, 15 minutes each.
For a cold sitz bath, fill the tub with ice water and submerge your torso for 30-60 seconds. Towel yourself dry.
For alternating hot and cold baths, fill one tub with hot water (about 110ºF) and a second with ice water. Starting with hot sitz bath, soak three to four minutes and then shift to cold sitz bath for 30-60 seconds; repeat this three to four times, always ending with cold water.
Your favorite herbal preparations, tinctures or aromatherapy essential oils can add further healing and relaxation to your sitz bath experience.
Please note: You may become dizzy when standing up after sitting in the hot sitz bath water. Rise slowly, bracing your hand for support or have a companion there to spot you in the case of extreme dizziness.