While exercise is critical for your physical and mental strength, it can also help you manage your hemorrhoid symptoms. However, you must pick the appropriate exercise to avoid worsening your condition.
Water-based exercises like swimming and water aerobics are recommended for those with hemorrhoids. But is it safe to swim with hemorrhoids?
Here's everything you need to know about swimming with hemorrhoids and how to prevent hemorrhoid flare-ups. But first, an overview of hemorrhoids.
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Hemorrhoids, also called piles, are swollen veins in your lower rectum or around your anus. About 1 in 20 Americans¹ have hemorrhoids — most sufferers are 50 years or older.
Although the exact cause of hemorrhoids is still unknown, researchers have linked the condition to various possible factors, including:
Straining during bowel movements
Long-term or chronic diarrhea and constipation
Being 50 or older
Moreover, you're more likely to get hemorrhoids if you're sedentary or sit for long periods.
Hemorrhoids are classified into two depending on their location.
Internal hemorrhoids are swollen veins inside the rectum. Usually, internal piles aren't painful, but they may sometimes bleed. Also, since they are inside the rectum, they are invisible, and you can't feel them unless they are prolapsed. A doctor would also be able to find them during an examination.
External hemorrhoids occur around the anus. External piles can be itchy and painful and occasionally bleed.
Prolapsed hemorrhoids are advanced internal hemorrhoids that stretch and bulge outside the anus. Moreover, prolapsed hemorrhoids can bleed and cause pain.
Hemorrhoid symptoms may vary from person to person, depending on the type, location, and severity of the swollen veins. Common hemorrhoids symptoms include:
Pain and irritation around the anus
Hard lumps near the anus
Anal itching and pain, especially when sitting
Sometimes hemorrhoids develop due to low mobility or a sedentary lifestyle. For instance, you’re more likely to get piles if you sit in the office for long hours or spend most of your time lying down. Unfortunately, most of today’s population have adopted an inactive lifestyle, not knowing the health dangers awaiting them.
However, some specific exercises can help you relieve hemorrhoid symptoms, including yoga and cardiovascular exercises. But can you swim with hemorrhoids? Let’s find out below.
Swimming is a practical and recommended sport for hemorrhoids. Water-based exercises like swimming help strengthen your pelvic muscles and lower back. Moreover, swimming targets the muscles of the entire body and distributes the load evenly.
Therefore, it won't overstimulate your pelvic floor muscles or increase intra-abdominal pressure like cycling or horse riding may. And the best part is that swimming is ideal for people of all ages and genders, even expectant mothers.
Swimming in warm water is even better for soothing hemorrhoid pain — it leaves you feeling calm and refreshed.
If you have your own private pool, you can get in and swim without worrying about anything. You might consider a public pool or the sea if you don't have your own pool. When you have hemorrhoids, you must be careful where you swim, especially if you have external piles.
For internal piles, it's okay to swim in pools and the sea. Since the lesions are inside the rectum unless prolapsed, the risk of infection is minimal.
But you might want to swim in seawater if you have external or prolapsed hemorrhoids. Sea water is salty and can help soothe pain and relieve symptoms of hemorrhoids, which also helps reduce inflammation.
If you have actively bleeding hemorrhoids, avoid pools, as most don’t allow actively bleeding people to swim.
When you have piles, you need to be picky about the type of exercises and activities you engage in. Some activities can aggravate piles and cause pain, bleeding, or irritation. Generally, you should not involve yourself in strenuous or high-impact exercises, especially those that exert pressure on your anal areas, abdominals, or hemorrhoids.
Here are some exercises and activities to avoid when you have piles:
Squats and similar movements
You can swap these exercises with swimming and walking.
Sometimes, hemorrhoids can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. The swollen blood vessels can bleed, turning your bowel movements into fiery, painful experiences.
Hemorrhoid flare-ups can occur anytime, with or without warning. Moreover, they cause pain, burning, itching, irritation, and sometimes bleeding.
Luckily, you can prevent hemorrhoid flare-ups using various techniques.
You may find relief from hemorrhoid flare-ups through over-the-counter medications and creams. However, if the treatments don't work, your doctor might recommend stronger medications.
For instance, over-the-counter topical treatments like hemorrhoid cream or hydrocortisone can help with hemorrhoid flare-ups. Moreover, you can soothe the affected area with aloe vera, witch hazel, or a numbing ointment containing lidocaine.
OTC pain relievers like aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen are also suitable for managing hemorrhoid flare-ups.
In most cases, you don't need to see a doctor for your hemorrhoids. And even if you have to, starting with at-home remedies and lifestyle changes is crucial to managing the symptoms. Here are various at-home treatments and remedies for piles.
Eat more fiber — add fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into your diet.
Stay hydrated — soak in a warm bath (sitz bath) or Epsom salt bath for about 20 minutes daily
Be physically active — engage in exercises like swimming and yoga
Avoid sitting too long or pushing too hard on the toilet
Most pile symptoms improve within a week with at-home care and treatments. However, you may need a medical procedure or surgery if your hemorrhoids cause extreme pain and discomfort.
Moreover, if you have chronic abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, chronic constipation or diarrhea, and severe rectal bleeding, speak to your doctor.
Piles or hemorrhoids are common among men and women 50 and older. Depending on where they form, they can either be internal, external, or prolapsed. Most patients ask: can you swim with hemorrhoids?
Swimming and water-based activities are suitable for hemorrhoids and can help relieve pain and inflammation. You can swim in a pool or the sea. However, you should avoid activities like weightlifting and horseback riding.
Various at-home remedies for hemorrhoids include over-the-counter pain relief creams and medications. Moreover, lifestyle and dietary changes can also help prevent hemorrhoid flare-ups. If at-home treatments aren't working, and you experience severe pain and rectal bleeding, speak to your doctor immediately.
Yes. If you're not bleeding, you can swim in a pool with hemorrhoids.
Strenuous or high-impact activities and exercises exert pressure on your anal areas, abdominals, and hemorrhoids and can aggravate your symptoms. Such activities include weightlifting, cycling, and horseback riding.
Definition & facts of hemorrhoids | NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Hemorrhoids | Johns Hopkins Medicine
Self-help steps to get through hemorrhoid flare-ups | Harvard Health Publishing
How to prevent a hemorrhoid flare-up | Metropolitan Gastroenterology Consultants