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The three main contact points on a bike are all critical to your riding comfort. Saddles, handlebars, and pedals all have the potential to inflict pain or discomfort.
Sometimes the pain is caused directly by the bike and its setup. Other times a pre-existing condition is the main culprit.
If you’re lucky, you won’t have experienced the discomfort of hemorrhoids (aka piles) whilst riding your bike.
In this article, we’ll find out whether cycling causes or exacerbates hemorrhoids. Do cycling hemorrhoids exist? Or is this something you get off the bike?
Does Cycling Cause Hemorrhoids?
No, cycling does not cause hemorrhoids. It may aggravate them, but the causes lie elsewhere. Your discomfort on the bike didn’t start with the bike.
Sitting For Long Spells (Especially On The Toilet)
The strain created by sitting for long periods on a toilet can cause hemorrhoids. It builds pressure in the anorectal region.
Never read a book while sitting on the toilet!
Experts often advise hemorrhoid sufferers not to use donut pillows for the same reason.
As well, a cushioned seat is better than a hard one. The latter causes your gluteal muscles to spread and creates pressure on your anus.
Straining During Bowel Movements
Pushing too hard when you’re “having a poo” causes hemorrhoids. Particularly if it’s a regular occurrence owing to dietary deficiencies. You may need more high-fiber foods in your diet like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Avoiding dehydration is another way to combat hard stools, constipation, and straining on the toilet. You should also consciously avoid excessive straining whilst holding your breath. Try relaxed, controlled breathing instead.
Regular heavy lifting is another activity that puts pressure on the rectal region and can lead to hemorrhoids or piles. Whether you’re lifting weights at the gym or moving furniture, this has the potential to create piles.
Again, it’s the straining and holding of breath that causes much of the problem when lifting weights. You can use breathing techniques to reduce pressure on your body.
Hemorrhoids are common among obese people because of inattention to diet and exercise. A sedentary lifestyle doesn’t help. Extra body weight constricts blood vessels and adds pressure around the anus and rectum.
Belly fat, which is particularly common among middle-aged men, loads the pelvic floor and leads to hemorrhoids. This fat is worth trying to reduce, even though it’s hard to shift (even through cycling).
A lot of the weight you’ll lose through cycling occurs when you first take it up. After that, it’s a question of maintenance, but the maintenance keeps you healthy.
Cycling is not a pastime that will give you defined “six-pack” abs or rid you of all belly fat. But it does encourage some people to live life more healthily off the bike.
Even pro cyclists often look full around the waist on TV. This is because their abdomens distend during hard efforts. For a few minutes on a mountain, they look like the rest of us if you ignore the speed.
It’s an unfortunate fact for the more mature cyclists among us that aging makes people more susceptible to hemorrhoids. As we age, the tissues that support the veins between the rectum and anus tend to stretch and weaken.
The above being said, hemorrhoids are common among younger people, also. Most people get piles at some point.
What Are Hemorrhoids And Can They Be Treated? Affect Your Cycling?
Hemorrhoids or piles are swollen veins in your lower rectum and anus. The rectum is the final few inches of the large intestine leading to the anus. You might think of them as varicose veins for the anus, though the thought is mildly nauseating at best.
Depending on the type of hemorrhoids you have, symptoms can include itchiness, mild bleeding, and various degrees of pain.
Types of Hemorrhoids
There are three main types of hemorrhoids:
- Internal Hemorrhoids sit inside the rectum and cause painless bleeding during bowel movements. You’ll notice blood on your stools. There may be some red toilet paper or water. Internal piles can also become prolapsed. They protrude from the anus. Sufferers can push them back in.
- External Hemorrhoids lie under your skin around the anus. They may cause itching or irritation in the anal region. There may also be pain or discomfort, a swollen anus, and bleeding when you pass stools.
- Thrombosed Hemorrhoids are external hemorrhoids that have formed a clot. These can be extremely painful. You may experience inflammation and swelling. A hard lump sometimes forms near the anus.
Of these types, external hemorrhoids are the ones likely to interfere with your cycling. Thrombosed piles will definitely stop you from riding in the short term. There are things you can do to either alleviate or remove the problem, depending on the severity.
Video: About Thrombosed Hemorrhoids
Treatments & Behavioral Changes
As mentioned, one way to alleviate piles and give them a chance to calm down is to stop straining on the toilet. Try deep, relaxed breathing instead. Don’t push harder because you’re in a hurry …
Diet (+ Example Foods)
The best foods for combatting piles are foods that reduce the likelihood of constipation and the straining that inevitably occurs on the toilet as a result.
You need high-fiber foods such as whole grains, wheat bran, shredded wheat, prunes, apples, pears, whole wheat pasta, artichokes, potatoes, broccoli, and beans.
Foods to avoid include highly processed foods, dairy products (which are low in fiber), red meat, chocolates, alcohol, and caffeine.
Although the aim is to avoid constipation, it is counterproductive to excessively eat foods that have a laxative effect on the body. Diarrhea can also cause hemorrhoids because it causes you to sit for long periods on the toilet.
Cleansing & Personal Care
Hemorrhoids that itch may tempt the sufferer to scratch or rub their anus. This is a bad idea, as it may damage or inflame the area further. A meticulous approach to keeping the anus clean helps prevent itching.
You can potentially alleviate some of the symptoms or discomfort of piles by using an old-fashioned bidet or a sitz bath. Cleaning your anus properly after a bowel movement helps to prevent anal itching.
An alternative to using a bidet or specially installed toilet bath is to wet toilet paper when wiping after a bowel movement. This does a more thorough job of cleaning than dry toilet paper. In case you’re wondering, you can buy toilet paper spray!
There are several treatments you can buy for hemorrhoids. These may come in the form of suppositories, creams, or pads. They contain ingredients such as lidocaine, hydrocortisone, or witch hazel.
As well, non-prescription flavonoids like diosmin are used as a dietary supplement in pill or capsule form to aid in the treatment of hemorrhoids.
You can also take anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce pain.
There are various medical and surgical procedures available to treat hemorrhoids, depending on the severity of the problem.
Minimally invasive procedures include rubber band ligation (“banding”), a chemical injection, and infrared or laser coagulation.
In more extreme cases, patients may undergo a hemorrhoid removal (hemorrhoidectomy) under local anesthetic.
This latter procedure is one that many cyclists have done for the long-term treatment of piles.
An alternative procedure to removal is hemorrhoid stapling (hemorrhoidopexy). This is less painful but carries a greater risk of recurrence.
Cycling Gear Remedies (Saddles, Clothing)
It’s impossible to recommend a saddle that remedies all hemorrhoid problems for all cyclists. The best solution is to address the cause and not the symptom.
Many people recommend saddles with cut-outs for hemorrhoids. However, most saddle cut-outs are meant to remedy pressure on the male and female genitalia and perineum and not necessarily the anus.
Read more: Recommended saddles for bike commuters
You’d need a saddle with an extremely large cut-out or a front-to-back channel to potentially alleviate anorectal problems.
Getting a saddle fitted by a bike fitter is also a good idea so you’re not putting undue pressure on your nether regions. A saddle that is too narrow is likely to cause saddle soreness and may worsen piles as it pushes up into the pubic arch.
If a bike fitter seems too elaborate, you can also measure your own “sit bones” to ensure a saddle is wide enough. Many cyclists don’t rest on these bones (ischial tuberosity) whilst riding, but the measurement can still be useful.
Overly padded saddles can create pressure on the perineal area. They may cause hemorrhoids to flare up. That being said, some high-quality 3D padding in a pair of cycling shorts is good if you’re riding longer distances.
Doctors don’t tend to advise on bike gear. They’re more interested in treating the problem, which is as it should be.
You can try a saddle like the Selle Italia SLR TI 316 Superflow if you’re looking for a temporary solution to piles. (We can’t guarantee this will solve your problem.)
You can also try wearing hemorrhoid pads inside cycling shorts for relief.
Read more: Commuter cycling shorts reviewed
Can Cycling Make Your Hemorrhoids Worse?
Cycling can certainly make hemorrhoids worse. Saddle pressure may cause significant pain or swelling. This is why switching saddles may enable you to keep cycling. However, this type of experimentation can quickly become expensive.
There is also a question about whether saddles with large cut-outs are good for piles. Remember, sitting over a large void can cause hemorrhoids in the first place.
Intuitively, sitting on a well-fitted bike saddle with a cut-out seems different from dangling your bum over a toilet seat. It ought to provide better support and create less pressure on your anus. Medical opinion is welcome!
If you don’t fancy visiting your doctor about hemorrhoids, this is a common inhibition. You can always try to alleviate them yourself first in the ways discussed above.
Unfortunately, self-help won’t always be enough. You shouldn’t hesitate in seeking proper medical advice when a problem with piles reduces your quality of life. The bodily parts that embarrass many of us do not perturb doctors and nurses.
Some cyclists essentially stop cycling (i.e., over significant distances) because of a hemorrhoid problem. But if you don’t replace that exercise with another form of workout, such as swimming, you may indirectly make your hemorrhoid problem worse.
Because cycling can make hemorrhoids worse, you’re likely to sometimes hear that it causes them. But nothing about the action of riding a bike creates hemorrhoids.
Video: How To Exercise With Hemorrhoids
One way to continue exercising with back or bottom problems is to ride a recumbent bike. The rider’s reclined position on a recumbent reduces or removes stress on the backside and spine.
Because of the aerodynamic position, recumbent bikes can also be fast. They’re fast downhill for the same reason, though “bents” are not ideal for climbing.
Many recumbent riders are 100% converted to these bikes. So, this may be a good solution for anyone with relevant medical problems.
Conclusion: Cycling Without “Piles” Of Pain
In summary, the best way to beat hemorrhoids is to alleviate them “at source”. You won’t always need to switch bike equipment and apparel.
Perhaps you’re in a situation where you can’t ride far without a medical procedure. Maybe you don’t fancy having it done. There will still be ways to keep pedaling. Don’t abandon your exercise!
One way or another, we hope you manage to resolve your bodily issues and can keep pedaling. If you found this article useful or think it could help someone else, please feel free to comment or share.