Got Vagina(?!) and Love to Bike?

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I was recently on DrRadio Channel 110 – SiriusXM with the wonderful Dr. Miriam Greene from New York University Medical Center. When I am on the show with her, we try to help educate women on perimenopause, menopause and post- menopause. We chat a bit and then people can call into the show with their questions. If you haven’t tuned into her radio show – it is a must. She is so smart and hilarious – and provides her listeners with real sound, fantastic no-holds-barred advice.

Dr. Greene and I often schmooze a bit during commercial breaks. I was amazed to hear some of her stories about things that can happen to women who bike.

I do love to ride my bike. I wouldn’t call myself a cyclist per se as my bike is just a cruiser with three speeds. I usually keep it on #3 speed and never use the hand breaks – still use the pedals. Old school – I know!

Dr. Green has a couple of patient stories to share with us! She said, that she has been a witness to at least 3 different stories where cycling and the vagina don’t mix well. However, if you do a lot of cycling, think about these patient’s experiences when you’re having “issues”.

Case#1:
This one required a little surgery…. Ahem!
In this instance, my patient had an unusually long labia minora. (We lay people refer to this as the lips.) This can be genetic or as years go by the labia majora loses fat, and with walking, jogging, or cycling the labia minora will rub together and lengthen. (Oh dear, I walk and/or ride my bike every day…….I need to check mine now. Labia get back to you later on this!!!)

Every time my patient cycled, the labia being unprotected became irritated and painful. A minor office procedure called a Labiaplasty can solve the problem. (This can be performed under local anesthesia 0r as an outpatient with anesthesia and sedation.) She was back to cycling in 4 weeks. Pain-free. (Labiaplasty is a plastic surgery procedure for altering the labia minora (inner labia) and the labia majora (outer labia) – the folds of skin surround the vulva. BTW most of us never use the word vulva.  Vulva is the proper name for our outer genitals. I call the whole kit(ten) caboodle my vagina. Pun intended!

Case#2:
This involved a young 22-year-old. She called me concerning irritation and burning on the left upper thigh and vulvar area. She loved cycling. The chronic rubbing of her thighs with pedaling induced severe mechanical stress to the thigh area. When I saw the lesions, all blistered and red it appeared to be shingles and guess what! It was Shingles. WOW, diagnosing this 22-year-old with shingles threw me for a loop. I treated her with an anti-viral called Valacyclovir. She recovered, but of course, this episode further convinced me that cycling and the vagina may not mix.

The final case which according to Dr. Greene, “Gets the Oscar for best cycling story.”

Case#3:
I received an email with a photo from a patient who was in the Emergency Room. Why? Her entire right leg was bruised, swollen and about 5 times the size of her other leg. The pain she was experiencing was so very intense that she needed a strong narcotic, Dilaudid, to quell the pain. The ER staff was bewildered as to what was wrong with the leg…was it a blood clot, vasculitis, Lyme disease? Nooooo…! I knew that this patient was an avid cyclist so I asked: ‘Did you recently ride?’ As a matter of fact, my spouse and I just completed a 100-mile ride over the course of 4 days. Aha… I explained that she probably ruptured a small blood vessel in her thigh muscle. Over time this slowly bled into the thigh muscle creating what we call a compartment syndrome …blood in an enclosed space! The pressure was so intense the bleeding eventually stopped, but not without causing enormous pain and disfigurement. Once the bleeding stops the blood will reabsorb and the condition will correct itself.

After a 2-day hospital stay and multiple tests, all professionals agreed that the cycling was the cause. It would take weeks to months before complete reabsorption occurs. In the meantime, this has limited this patient’s activities …she’s starting physical therapy next week!

So, there’s nothing more to say except…….Tennis anyone?!

My Motto:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN!

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After struggling with her own severe menopause symptoms and doing years of research, Ellen resolved to share what she learned from experts and her own trial and error. Her goal was to replace the confusion, embarrassment, and symptoms millions of women go through–before, during, and after menopause–with the medically sound solutions she discovered. Her passion to become a “sister” and confidant to all women fueled Ellen’s first book, Shmirshky: the pursuit of hormone happiness. As a result of the overwhelming response from her burgeoning audiences and followers’ requests for empowering information they could trust, Ellen’s weekly blog, Menopause MondaysTM, was born.

  • Cathy Sikorski

    Wow…I was never so happy to be a gym rat than I am now. I just don’t bike, except occasionally on vacation and not for long rides. You probably didn’t intend this, but I like it as an excuse. However, I may need to come up with something more discreet than “my labia doesn’t bike.” Great article!

  • Michelle

    See? THIS is why I don’t exercise. Well..and I’m kind of lazy.

    • Haha! I think walking is good for the vagina!!!

  • I do ride everyday not far or long but if I do go for longer than 10 miles I always think a maxi pad or biking underwear would be a good choice. Never did I think it would cause such pain and conditions until today!!

    • Yep, me neither. But it is good to have this info in our head…………..just in case we need it.

  • Good grief. What stories! and who knew?I used to bike all the time but never extremely long distances.

    • I thought the info would be helpful since more and more folks are doing spin classes………

  • givemeyouridiots

    I am an indoor cycling instructor. I’ve been spinning for about 8 years now. While a bruised vagina is a common complaint (as can be brush burns), there ARE things you can do to minimize the damage:

    1) Use Glide or another anti chafe stick. You can get them in most sporting goods stores and online. This is for the skin area only. I use it in the crease of my legs, all the way back to the bum area. Be generous with this stuff!

    2) Get WELL padded bike shorts. Most bike shops sell them, but you can also find them online. They really keep your parts protected from the hard seat. After 8 years, I prefer a thinner pad, as my core strength keeps me from sitting too heavily on the seat and getting bruised. But, you can use a heavy pad forever, if you like it.

    3) In lieu of padded bike shorts, get a padded bike seat. They cost about $20- $30. Get the gel kind. This will really keep you from pressing soft parts into something hard. I prefer shorts to a seat, but you can experiment.

    4) If you are doing indoor cycling (or any cycling for that matter), be sure you are also doing other, full-body workouts that strengthen your core. You want to draw your spine up and sit lightly in the seat. Pilates is great, as is yoga. Google “abs” or “core” exercises and you will find a lot of 10 minute series, which if done daily, will really help keep your time in the saddle from being a painful one.

    5) This is for spin/indoor cycling classes. If you are doing jumps out of the saddle, add tension to the flywheel and give yourself a “base,” so you feel safe and can lower yourself easily back into the saddle. If your vagina starts to feel sore, add tension to the flywheel and come up to second or out to third position for a bit. New riders sometimes find out-of-the saddle work intimidating, but it can really give your parts a rest, if you do it safely. Again, focus on your core, and don’t lean into your arms.

    6) Spin classes are fun, but can feel competitive. Always remember that it is YOUR RIDE. You don’t have to run as fast or jump as often as the teacher or advanced riders. Pace yourself, always use good form and get yourself some padding!

    • Thanks so much for these great tips! More and more women are enjoying spin classes….so it is helpful to have these great tips!

  • My daughter had a labiaplasty. Now, I’m glad she did.

  • Tam Warner Minton

    How lovely. NOT. I think I will stick to scuba, yoga and pilates.

    • I guess one can have problems with anything we do. In the end, it is best to do what you love.

  • Lois Alter Mark

    And this is why I play tennis! I’ve never been a biker and you can bet I won’t be starting any time soon!

  • I love a gentle bike ride – so I think I’m fairly safe – interesting to see how simple conditions can escalate with the right/wrong set of circumstances.

    • I know! I had no idea these kinds of issues could even happen.

  • I have a cruiser bike and have never once come close to “damaging” myself when I ride. Good to remember that anything done excessively can be bad or you!

    • Too bad we can’t meet for a ride…………..

  • Linda Alvarez

    OMG! My Mom always said moderation is key, to much of anything may lead to issues that may not be pleasant. I swear by a 30 min easy steady pedal bike ride. Think your good Ellen. Here’s to your not above 3 no hand break old school method:)

    • Your Mom is right……..too much of anything can lead to issues. I think I am good with my old fashioned bike riding.

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