Cycling - Knowledge

Cycling Injuries: Saddle Sores - How to Prevent, Treat and Diagnose

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Cyclists all over the world fear the dreaded saddle soreness that you can get on long rides. It doesn't matter how long it has been since you last rode a cycle, the inescapable saddle sores will turn up uninvited every now and then. Some can be very mild and only pose as a slight inconvenience on your next ride while some may make you stay away from your cycle, avoiding it completely. The only consolation is that you can get used to it. This means that your gluteus tissues can adjust to the repeated and prolonged pressure being put on them while cycling.

The longer and more often you ride your cycle, the easier it becomes for you to adapt to the saddle sores. Read on to know more about saddle sores and how to prevent, diagnose and treat them altogether.

Saddle Sores - The Uncomfortable Truth About Cycling

What are Saddle Sores?

Saddle sores are the consequence of your rear rubbing against the saddle of your bicycle over time. The rubbing or pressure on your tissues repeatedly makes your skin get irritated and starts chaffing and peeling off. Your sweat along with skin chaffing that occurs down there is a major factor to developing saddle sores. New cyclists are more prone to developing sores than regular cyclists as their tissues are not used to this prolonged pressure and rubbing against the saddle. Even though you may be a frequent bicycle rider, you can still end up getting saddle sores anyway.

The bones that you use for sitting, the ischial tuberosities, take most of the pressure when you sit on the saddle. Another area that takes your weight is the perineum, these are the main spots where you will feel aches after sitting on the bicycle saddle for too long. 

saddle sores
Painful Saddle Sores (source)

Skin Issues Associated with Saddle Sores

Find out what happens to your skin when you suffer from saddle sores:

1. Chafing

This is the feeling of irritated and bruised skin on the inner thighs as a result of them rubbing against the saddle head. This can be extremely painful and leave your skin in that area very sensitive.

2. Folliculitis and Furuncles

These are two types of skin irritations that may appear similar and are sometimes confused for the other.

Folliculitis involves the bottom of a hair follicle and is when there is an infection that leads to a slight bump or inflammation around its base. They can go unnoticed as most of the time they do not hurt and go away on their own without any necessary intervention.

A furuncle is better known as the common boil. These can be increasingly painful if not tended to as soon as possible and they grow as time progresses.

3. Skin Ulceration

Ulcers could develop anywhere from the smallest lesion in your skin. This is due to the peeling off of the outer layer of skin which allows bacteria to grow and make ulcers. Do not leave an ulcer unattended as it can grow into a worsened infection.

Top 8 Tips on How to Avoid Saddle Sores

If you are a frequent victim to saddle sores then read further to know how to best prevent them and make your next ride pain free. Learn about saddle comfort for cyclists, types of shorts, creams, and practices to stay clear of injury.

  • Pick the Right Saddle

This would be the first step to prevent future saddle sores and aches. Our rear ends tend to be differently shaped from person to person, so it makes sense that you should find a suitable saddle to handle your shape and size. Try to keep style and colour out of the way for now and focus on your comfort. Put your priorities in order of comfort over looks or weight of the saddle.

The old saddles in the market did not have much of a soothing effect on the rider but the newer models coming out nowadays are designed specifically for the prevention of soreness. Look for the newer saddles that have an open groove running along the middle. This helps distribute pressure.

Decide which padding and size of the saddle is more comfortable for you. If you are not sure which one is right for you then you could try going to the nearest bike shop and loaning out a bike saddle. Try it out for a few days and compare it to the other types available. You will definitely find the one.

saddle sore treatment
Right Way of Riding
  • Check Positioning

Once you find the correct saddle, it is now important to make sure the height is suitable as a seat too high or loose can end up giving you soreness and chaffing. If this is not the only issue causing you problems, check out to see that your bicycle is functioning properly and other jointures are adjusted correctly. 

saddle sores solution
Check the Right Saddle Position
  • Keep Moving

Say goodbye to saddle sores by changing your sitting position on the bike. Avoid sitting in only one position for a long time, keep shifting your position. If you wish, you can stand up and ride too, this way the saddle sores will stay at bay.

saddle sores
Keep changing your position (source)
  • Only Shorts

One of the foolproof ways to reduce saddle soreness is to always wear shorts when you go cycling. A better option would be to try cycling shorts or bib shorts. It is mandatory to wash yourself following a cycle ride as the sweat and bacteria could grow and reproduce. Your nether region is especially important to keep clean to avoid any infection. If you are going on a long ride you might need to change your shorts midway to prevent any chafing or infection caused by sweat. This is due to the fact that when the sweats dry up as you cool down, either by slowing down or taking a break, the salt that is present in the sweat hardens into crystals which rub against your skin.

saddle sores
 Wear Cycling Shorts and Prevent Chafing
  • Use a Good Chamois

Some cycling or bib shorts come with a padding made of chamois that can help you prevent chaffing and reduce soreness. This is an important factor to consider when purchasing your cycling shorts as the rear is the point that comes in contact with the saddle and bears the pressure of your body on the cycle. Also, you should buy the right cycling gear that will protect you from saddle sores. There are various types of chamois that can be suitable but it is best to try out a few and find which is best for you. Try to find a chamois that contains very few seams in it to lessen the amount of friction in your skin. 

Treatment for Saddle Sores
Treat Saddle Sores with Chamois
  • Chamois Cream

Many experienced cyclists are recommending using chamois cream before cycling or when you stop to take a break halfway. This cream also contains aloe vera and works wonders when it comes removing the threat of bacterial infection by killing off the germs. It can also aid in lubricating your skin to prevent friction that is caused where the skin comes in contact with the shorts material.

However, it is not mandatory that you use this cream every time you ride your bicycle. If you find a chamois or bib shorts made of good quality material then you may not even need to use chamois cream in the first place. It depends on your sensitivity and vulnerability to saddle sores.

saddle soreness treatment
Wipe off Saddle Sores with Chamois Cream
  • Clean your Shorts

Always try to maintain your shorts in a good clean sweat free condition for the next time you are going to ride. After a long ride, remove the shorts as soon as you reach home and hop into the shower to wash off all the impurities. Pop the shorts into a washing machine, dry thoroughly and wear them again only when they are completely dry. 

Another important aspect of wearing cycling or chamois shorts is that you are not supposed to wear underwear beneath them. They are meant to be the sole contact with your skin when riding your bicycle. This way it is easier to understand that wearing them twice in a row would not be a great idea and that they must be washed following a ride, no matter the duration. Treat them like underwear and keep your skin clean and infection free. 

Livingit tip-
Remember to never wear a pair of shorts twice in a row even if they do not seem that sweaty or dirty.

  • Stay Clear of Hair Removal

A common practice among cyclists is shaving legs to increase speed and cut resistance. There is no clear answer when it comes to this myth, and there is no harm trying it, unless you are also removing hair around the genital area. A little more precaution is needed for your nether regions as they can become hosts to bacteria. When you shave the hair in this region, you remove a protective layering that soaks up the sweat and reduces bacterial growth. Shaving can also lead to ingrown hairs which could be painful and difficult to remove. An unattended ingrowth could start an infection at the base of the hair follicle and worsen your condition.

How to Treat Saddle Sores

If you were unfortunate enough to still experience saddle sores after taking multiple precautions, then here is a guide to help you heal. Follow these tips to soothe yourself of the pain and also to prevent worsening the damage.

1. Take a Break

When the saddle sores start bothering you then it’s your body’s way of telling you to take it easy. Even if you are a very dedicated cyclist training for a race, you need to remove the exposure to this pain if you want to get better. Take a break from cycling, wear loose clothing and relax for a few days. This will definitely benefit you in the long run.

2. Keep Clean and Dry

Remember to keep your posterior clean by washing yourself every day and also keeping dry. Refrain from touching the sore area, infected skin, or boils that may have developed.

3. Antibacterial Cream

Creams like Sudocrem can be a great treatment for boils or infection. There are many antibacterial creams available in the market and you can find the one that works best or consult your physician. Also, for any kind of road rash, soreness due to saddle sore, you can try using calamine lotion or Vaseline to soothe the area. Spread on a small amount and you should instantly feel better.

4. Doctors Checkup

If your saddle sores are lasting longer than a few days and the pain is getting worse then it may be time to go to a doctor and get yourself looked at. Common indicators are difficulty sitting and walking, burning sensation, bleeding, enlarging boils and more. With antibiotics and the correct medicine, you should be brought back to health in no time.

Right Nutrition to Fight Saddle Sores

Most factors that come into play for preventing saddle sores are the shorts you wear, using chamois cream, hygiene and the saddle itself. There is another factor that should be more stressed upon and its nutrition.

Your diet plays an important role in how your body fights infection and stays resilient to disease or injury. If you incorporate these nutritional and dietary supplements into your meals then you can recover quicker from saddle sores. 

  • Taking vitamin C and zinc are detrimental to recovering as they help skin maintain its strength and repair faster. Vitamin C is commonly supplemented for any illness as an immune booster. Zinc is lost through your sweat so cyclists that perspire excessively should definitely incorporate this supplement into their diet.
  • It important in the process of tissue repair and overall immunity. You can buy supplements or munch on zinc rich foods such as oysters, sardines, beef, and eggs have high amounts of zinc. Vegetarian options are cheese, and nuts especially brazil nuts and peanuts. If you can, try eating brown rice, as the white variety is actually stripped of zinc along with other nutrients.
  • Another factor that can affect your recovery is lack of sleep. Lack of sleep can cause exhaustion, lack of concentration and stress. Stress is not helpful for recovering cyclists as it can affect the way your body repairs itself and prolong infections.
Saddle Sore Tips
Zinc Rich Food

 We hope these saddle sore tips helped you prevent future saddle sores and infections! Remember the tips required to stay as far away from saddle sores as you can. 

If you were unlucky, then well you now know how to take care of the sores and relieve the pain.

Let us know what saddle soreness treatment worked best for you in the comments below!

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