Saddle Soreness – The GB Paralympic combating the Taboo

Saddle Soreness

Saddle Soreness & the facts

In the UK the rise of the cycle to work scheme is becoming increasingly popular, with employers everywhere offering the scheme in a bid to encourage healthy living. At present 2.4 million people cycle three times or more per week, with 1.7 million cycling every day. Men are currently three times more likely to cycle to work than women, we look into the main reason behind this statistic and see if there is a way to make cycling more comfortable for women and break the stigma of saddle soreness.

What is a vulva?

According to recent studies, when sat on a road bike the vulva bares up to 40% of a woman’s weight. Unfortunately, the amount of weight a woman’s vulva is subjected to while cycling isn’t just uncomfortable, it causes great damage to the organ and enduces saddle soreness.
The vulva is the part of the vagina outside of a woman’s body, this part of a female’s body is extremely sensitive and any minor or major trauma can have serious implications. The vulva is made up of six separate parts; the labia, the clitoris, the opening of the urethra, the opening of the vagina, the anus and the mons pubis. In recent news we have seen women facing extreme surgical procedures to areas of the vulva due to trauma caused by frequent cycling.
Paralympic Hannah Dines has just this week opened up about the pain she has faced through surgical procedures due to injury caused by her Paralympic dreams.

A Paralympic breaking stigma

Hannah Dines, a talented and determined Paralympic cyclist had to have surgery after suffering swelling and damage to her vulva, following training and tournaments over the years. The pain became so severe, she had no option but to have surgery to alleviate the discomfort. Dines suffered for five years and often told herself that this was the sacrifice she had to make in order to enjoy her passion, however, it became apparent that this trauma would have the opposite outcome.
After recovery Dines has decided to open up about the issues surrounding vulva trauma in the cycling world. We discuss the symptoms of various conditions you may come across as a female frequent cyclist and when to visit your GP.

What can frequent cycling do to me?

There are many issues that stem from frequent cycling, many can be deal with without invasive surgery. Simple changes made to the way women cycle can save pain, swelling and general discomfort.
The main issue surrounding vulva swelling and discomfort is the design on many bike saddles. Bike saddles are known to increase pressure on the vulva. Repeated and constant pressure on the vulva has been linked to a numb sensation of the labia. Recent studies have shown that cycling up to 100 miles per week can cause significant loss of genital sensation, resulting in a loss of genital stimulation. This in effect can have repercussions on sex life and reproduction, possibly even leading to depression and frustration. Further to the loss of sensation, constant pressure applied to the vulva can as previously mentioned lead to swelling and severe discomfort, resulting in potential surgery. At present research into bike saddles is being discussed. There are some companies who specialise in bike saddles designed for women and the shaping of the vulva, however, these are still new though testing has shown promising results in recent studies.

What other conditions are there?

Throughout the studies into why women are less likely to take up cycling, another apparent issue is the presence of Thrush within women cyclists. Thrush is a bacterial infection of the vulva, causing pain, itching and general discomfort of the female reproductive organ.
Thrush can be embarrassing to discuss with your doctor though it is a common infection, it tends to have a stigma attached. The symptoms linked to Thrush can be mirrored with those connected to sexually transmitted diseases, therefor this can be extremely distressing to the sufferer. Thrush is common within women of all ages and has been linked to various causes, however, a major cause of Thrush has been known to be tight clothing. Cyclists use tight clothing in order to reduce chaffing and improvement movement, but what are the repercussions of tight clothing on a female’s body?
Recent studies have shown that tight clothing can promote Thrush and Bacteria Vaginosis. The breathability of the clothing is the main cause of the promotion of bacteria in warm, moist places. Lycra, Nylon, Cotton and Polyester all have the ability to let bacteria thrive. A way to treat the irritating symptoms of Thrush is to wear loose clothing, therefor, cycling outfits can be linked to the presence of bacteria and the promotion of Thrush. It is important to recognise the symptoms of Thrush and contact a qualified healthcare professional if you think you may have the infection:

Symptoms include:

  • An itchy vagina / vulva
  • Soreness around the entrance to your vagina
  • Slight swelling of your labia
  • Thick white discharge

Further to the presence of Thrush some women experience Cystitis and Urinary Tract Infections. alldayDr have previously covered this subject and encourage anyone suffering with the following symptoms to contact their GP for further help.

  • A persistent urge to urinate
  • Burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Blood in the urine
  • Passing cloudy or strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic discomfort
  • Feeling of pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Slight fever

Maybe we can help you?

If you are a frequent cyclist and have noticed a change in your vulva, it is crucial you contact a qualified healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms. Any changes “down there” must be logged. alldayDr understands that discussing your vaginal health can be embarrassing, however, we will always recommend discussing issues with a qualified GP.
If you feel too uncomfortable discussing any symptoms with your family clinician, we can provide a safe and secure platform for you to gain the advice, guidance and help you deserve. You can see a doctor from the comfort of your own home and be confident in knowing your healthcare is safe and secure. If you or any of your friends and family have concerns about their vagina, go to the website for further information and guidance. Women no longer need to suffer in silence from saddle soreness.

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