Got Vagina(?!) and Love to Bike? - Ellen Dolgen
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Got Vagina(?!) and Love to Bike?

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”.

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!

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.”

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!

Download my free eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriends Guide to Surviving and Thriving during Perimenopause and Menopause.


24 thoughts on “Got Vagina(?!) and Love to Bike?”

  1. 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!

  2. 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!!

  3. 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!

  4. 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:)

  5. Oh Ellen-I’m so sorry to read this article you have about women and cycling! You are discouraging women from one of the best forms of exercise they can do for their body! I am 57 years old and an avid cyclist. I usually ride between 100 and 165 miles per week and also ride with a team. This past year I came in third place in my age group in the Tour de Tucson 55 mile event. Cycling was the best decision I made when I started five years ago. I lost weight, gained muscle, and expanded my circle of friends that are like minded with their approach to health and exercise! As one of your other readers commented, there are many things you can do to protect yourself. Wearing high quality bike shorts, use a glide or anti-chaffing creme, always change out of your bike shorts immediately after a long ride, and make sure you are properly fitted by an expert with a bike seat that will work for you. Tennis is great, I used to play too, but my knees cannot take the hard pounding anymore. Your article reminds me of what they used to tell women 100 years ago about cycling. Some of the incidents you shared are extremely rare when looking at the sport globally. Please, please be encouraging to this sport which is so beneficial to women!!! People respect what you say and I would really like to see an update from you on the many benefits of road cycling!

    1. It was a being a little bit tongue and cheek about switching to tennis. Your tips on how to protect your vagina when you bike are great. I love to ride my bike. I personally find that the anti-chaffing creme works great for me!

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