Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Saddle Sores and Sun Screens

Been tweeting back and forth with Frayed Laces about saddle sores. They seem to be the cycling injury no one wants to admit to or discuss, but they fucking hurt. I have been treating one for a couple of months and although it's getting a little better, it's still causing issues. So how do you treat a saddle sore? And what even causes them? Well, before I launch into my moderately underinformed analysis let me say that if you use the googles to search the subject there are many articles on the interwebs.

(Don't worry. I haven't included any pictures. You are safe to continue reading. Or not, if you NEED pictures.)

What I have learned from the articles I have skimmed is that a "crotch" (also referred to as a "groin," but I like the sound of "crotch" better) is a bacteria ridden, horrible, nasty, damp and musty place prone to excessive friction and pressure which can lead to pain and actual owies. (Sorry, slipped into kid mode.) Yeah, so? We are all built more or less the same so why do some people get saddle sores and others don't? Although I'd like to go into a long philosophical discussion of hygiene, training intensity and truth telling, I'll just list some stuff I found.

Saddle position can have an affect. Softness or firmness of your saddle can also have an effect and combined with either too thick or too thin chamois you have a multitude of factors to consider. Many times a firmer saddle is actually better than a softer saddle or thinner chamois is better than thicker. Leg length discrepancies can cause uneven peddling motion leading to a sore on one side. Sometimes a leg length discrepancy is bad enough to need to be fixed with a shim under your shoe on that side - proceed with caution on that one. Sometimes a saddle sore simply starts from an ingrown hair. (Again, check the cybernets for other causes and fancy names.)

How do you treat a saddle sore? There are about as many treatments as causes. Primary treatment - keep your "crotch" clean and dry. Duh? I have certainly ramped up my crotchal hygiene but I still have issues. (That was probably the understatement of the century.) So I switched my chamois cream/lube. I've been using Bag Balm. It was originally used for sore cow udders, but it works great as a chamois lube. I basically spread it on with a spatula because I like to be good and slippery (not really, but I use a lot.) The nice thing about it is it has an antiseptic element that helps deter infection. It's also relatively cheep and easy to find making it OK to use in massive quantities. I have also read - depending on the cause of your saddle sore - in this case an ingrown hair - that acne cream with benzoyl peroxide can help. Desitin diaper cream is FL's chamois lube of choice at the moment. I would seem to make sense to me as it did wonders for my kids' diaper rash and it's baby friendly so it's mild. I have read pros and cons about using rubbing alcohol and some other treatments. Whatever you do - DO NOT pop, squeeze, cut, pick, lick, rub or jab with pointy objects at a saddle sore. You are only asking for trouble and you DO NOT want trouble down there. You are not a surgeon or a butcher so don't play one between your legs. (And if you are a surgeon or a butcher - still don't mess around down there.)

Again, I can't repeat this disclaimer enough, read the articles yourself and if things are really bad in your "nether regions" see a doctor, stop whoring around (men and women) and DO NOT reference me as any sort authority on the subject. I really only decided to write this so I would have a reason to type "crotch" and other euphemisms multiple times.

Now, what's been working for me is the Bag Balm as a lube during rides - again, MASSIVE quantities. Then I shower and service the undercarriage with a nice mild soap. Dry the "area" thoroughly with my wife's towel - I don't want that nasty rot all over MY body. Then apply a little Neosporin + Pain Relief (or a generic equivalent - I've used both.) It's not like a shot of Novocaine to the "crotch" or anything, but it does treat the pain effectively. Some people are helped with a little careful "landscaping" in the area thereby eliminating the "steel wool effect."

As I am sure you're all interested in the state of my "taint" - it gets better when I'm not riding and then gets irritated on longer rides. It's not as bad as it used to be when I'm riding. I actually went with a softer, tri-specific saddle which allowed me to bring the nose up a bit so the saddle is more flat and that has helped. It's different for everyone.

To follow up on my sunscreen post from a few days ago. I had to pick up a new helmet with larger vents to keep my melon cooler. First long ride (4.5 hours) on a sunny day and I neglect to put sunscreen on my forehead. Looking in the mirror I can see three nice red racing stripes. Larger vents let in more sun. Sun burns - especially me. I am dumb.

My tiger stripes were light (my wife didn't ridicule me until I pointed them out to her) and faded quickly, although I have been wearing a hat when I am out so I don't look like a total moron. Good thing that Scape sunscreen works so well and doesn't run into my eyes. Looks like I'll be using a lot of it.


Mary V! said...

I am disgusted but laughed out loud at my desk!!!!!

Seriously TMI

Mary V!

t-odd said...

You're my sister. You're supposed to be disgusted when I talk about stuff like this.

Charisa said...

You use your wife's towel - toooooo funny!

No joke - my word verification is "sausage"

RP said...

Great infomatic post my dear. Yep, do not pick or prod, squeeze, etc. Be gentle around the boys.

Just glad that I'm not riding as much anymore, bikes that is. ;-)

Oh, and stop using your wife's towel for god's sake!

SSB said...

The steel wool effect. I'll never be able to use that to wash dishes again.

Kathleen @ ForgingAhead said...


Teresa said...

Thanks, now I know the expert to send my athletes too when they are dealing with this issue...thanks (more for the laughs)...you crack me up!

Lisa T said...

Don't forget the Monkey Butt powder!

Seriously though, the doc can give you some prescription ointment for the infected "hair follicles." It works when nothing else does.

Beth said...

Crack me up! I've had a few saddle sores too and they are just no joke. Ouch. Hope yours heal up soon!