A hip bath is a specially designed type of bath tub which is intended to submerge the buttocks and hips of the bather, who bathes sitting upright, as though in a chair. These baths have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic tradition, and they were also immensely popular in the Victorian era, when many Europeans flocked to institutions offering hydrotherapy. Some members of the medical establishment continue to use hip baths in patient treatment.
Some people also use the term “hip bath” to describe a deeper bathtub, in which more of the body is immersed, but the bather still sits rather than lies in the tub. This sort of hip bath was also very popular among the Victorians, especially those without running water, as it was small enough to fill with water from jugs. Some modern bathers also enjoy this sort of hip bath, since it is quite comfortable to lounge in for extended periods of time.
In the sense of a therapeutic bath, a hip bath is supposed to promote healthy circulation and stimulate the digestive tract. Patients may bathe in warm, tepid, or cool water, and various substances may be added to the water as well. In some cases, the bath also involves a vigorous rub down with a coarse cloth, which helps to slough off dead skin while also encouraging surface circulation.
Taking hip baths for healing might seem a bit odd, but it does have some very distinct health benefits. Women who suffer from cramping, for example, may find that taking a hip bath helps to relieve the pain. A hip bath can also be used to treat hemorrhoids and other painful inflammations and infections in the lower regions of the body.
A related concept is the sitz bath, which covers the buttocks specifically. Sitz baths are used to treat various inflammatory conditions such as fistulas, and also to ease the pain from surgical procedures in that area of the body. They can also ease recovery from giving birth, when women often experience pain and soreness. Typically a sitz bath is taken with warm water, and the bather soaks for 20-30 minutes.