Running with hemorrhoids is just one of the bodily ailments that many a runner goes through during their running career.
The longer the distances you run, the greater the impact on your body. It’s no secret that funky little oddities will pop up during different seasons of running. Many runners have been known to deal with runner’s toe, runner’s diarrhea, and other seemingly random – but irritating – issues.
Hemorrhoids are another one of those little problems. Just like the previous ailments I’ve mentioned, hemorrhoids can be very annoying if not addressed, but fortunately can be cured and dealt with in a relatively seamless way.
Ready to find out how to sort out your running and piles?
Let’s jump in!
What Are Hemorrhoids?
In order to deal with hemorrhoids effectively, you have to know what they are, anatomically. Essentially, they are swollen veins that accumulate in the rectum or anus.
There are two types of hemorrhoids: internal and external.
Internal: They are usually not visible on the outside. They’re not necessarily painful, but often do cause bleeding, especially while running, cycling, or doing other repetitive exercises.
External: You can see and feel them. These are the ones that are usually tender and get sore during running. If they don’t get treated, they can form blood clots, which may have to be removed by a doctor.
What Causes Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids result from an issue with the digestive system. The most common cause of hemorrhoids (especially for runners) is lack of water.
Another cause is excess body weight which can add to the pressure of the hemorrhoids.
If you’re already experiencing hemorrhoids, you probably know the symptoms well. You just may not realize that the symptoms are caused by hemorrhoids. So if you’re feeling pain, itchiness, or bleeding in the rectum area, it’s quite likely you have hemorrhoids.
Treatments for Hemorrhoids
While there are surgical treatments for hemorrhoids, that’s often recommended as a last resort. There are plenty of natural ways to treat them. Here are the 3 most common:
- Over the counter medication like pain relievers (ibuprofen or aspirin).
- Natural ointments: many people have reported that natural remedies like Witch Hazel relieve their symptoms.
- Rubber band ligation: A doctor does a painless 10-minute procedure where they put a rubber band on the hemorrhoid. After a few days, it dries up and goes away.
Can Running Cause Hemorrhoids?
Many people don’t notice the hemorrhoids until they start running, so they wonder if the running and piles are connected.
Lalitha McSorley, physical therapist and owner of Brentwood Physio Clinic, offers her expert knowledge on the subject. She has treated many ultramarathon runners, athletes from Cirque du Soleil, and other professional and Olympic athletes.
“Running does NOT cause hemorrhoids, I tell my patients that all the time. However, any type of high-impact activities will most definitely worsen hemorrhoid-related symptoms.
When I work with patients complaining of hemorrhoids (especially ultra-marathoners), we tend to see symptoms worsen as a result of two factors. The first factor being constipation related to dehydration and diet. This will worsen symptoms but can be easily fixed with the appropriate hydration and fiber intake.
The second factor is pressure around the abdominal or anal area, resulting from the high impact from running. There are many topical ointments and surgical treatments; however, for those looking for a more natural solution, try coating the hemorrhoid in Vaseline, diaper rash cream, or baby oil. This will help reduce friction and inflammation that causes irritation. Warm baths are also an effective way to combat hemorrhoids.”
So rather than asking the question, Can running cause hemorrhoids?, a better question would be, Does running inflame hemorrhoids?
And the answer is yes. Here’s how running can inflame hemorrhoids:
- It stresses the gastrointestinal system
- It causes increased pressure and swelling of the hemorrhoids
- It causes constipation due to hydration, creating hard stool and extra pressure during bowel movement, thus inflaming the tissue.
Hemorrhoids and Running: a Doomed Relationship?
Even though running can exacerbate the symptoms of hemorrhoids, there are some ways running can actually help you get rid of them.
Exercise offers some therapeutic value to existing hemorrhoids because it increases intestinal muscle contractions. Those contractions can loosen the hemorrhoids and make them go away faster.
Since exercise often helps you lose weight, running can alleviate excess body weight that might be contributing to the hemorrhoids.
The key thing to remember is this: you can definitely still run marathons, ultramarathons, and other big races even if you are prone to getting hemorrhoids. You just need to learn good habits that will relieve the hemorrhoids and allow you to keep running and keep pushing yourself to the finish line.
Tips for Running with Hemorrhoids
We’ve gathered tips from McSorley and other physio experts on how to deal with hemorrhoids before, during, and after your run.
Before the Run
Increase the levels of fiber in your diet.
Foods that are high in fiber aid your digestive system to keep you from constipation, which in turn lowers the potential of getting hemorrhoids.
High fiber foods include:
- Vegetables like broccoli, corn, and carrots
- Fruits like melon, orange, and berries
- Nuts and seeds
- White and red potatoes with skin
Hydrate properly before you run.
That doesn’t mean to drink a ton of water right before you run – that will result in cramps and your body won’t have a chance to properly absorb the water’s nutrients.
If you’re running in the evening, hydrate throughout the day with small amounts of water many times during the day.
If you’re running in the morning, hydrate well the evening before. Make sure to drink a lot when you first wake up rather than right before the run.
Wear loose, breathable clothing.
Tight spandex or itchy cotton clothing are not good for hemorrhoids since they can irritate infected areas. Stick with looser clothing. If you tend to get chafing between your thighs, you can wear an anti-chafing deodorant which will protect you just as well as spandex would.
Make Vaseline your friend.
Take a moment before the run to coat the area with some Vaseline or diaper rash ointment to soothe any irritation before you get started.
During the Run
Modify your techniques.
One of the ways to increase hemorrhoid symptoms while running is by using inconsistent breathing techniques. So while you’re running, make sure you practice even and steady breathing throughout the whole run.
It’s just as important to stay hydrated during the run as it is before the run, especially for long races like half marathons, marathons, and ultramarathons.
After the Run
Change out of sweaty clothes immediately.
Don’t sit around in wet shorts with salty sweat that can irritate the wound.
Take a warm bath.
Soaking your lower half in warm water will ease irritated hemorrhoids. Many physio experts recommend bathing at least twice a day if you have severe hemorrhoid symptoms.
Bathing is not only good for hemorrhoids but also helps with inflammation in your ankles and knees, which helps with injury prevention and recovery.
Choose your cross-training carefully.
Some forms of exercise are worse for hemorrhoids than others.
Don’t do these exercises:
- Horseback riding
- Heavy weight lifting
Do these instead:
- Swimming or any water-based sport
- Simple bodyweight exercises
If your symptoms worsen, contact a doctor.
A doctor can make specific recommendations for your condition. They can also perform simple, quick procedures like rubber band litigation or laser treatments to take care of the hemorrhoids effectively.
Now that you have the tools and resources to carry on running in a pain-free and healthy way, it’s time to get back on the trail and move along in your running training plan.
If hemorrhoids have been holding you back from starting a training plan, you’ll need to take the next step – which is downloading and scheduling your next training. We offer an extensive library of free training plans for your marathon or ultramarathon.
All you have to do is download it, customize it to fit your unique schedule, and you’re on your way.
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