Is it Normal to Bleed When You Exercise?

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The benefits of exercise are well-documented. Weight control, heart health and improved lung capacity are among the countless positive effects that far outweigh any negative effects associated with vigorous exercise. However, various types of bleeding can occur while exercising, especially during endurance workouts.

Skin Chafing

Chafing occurs when your clothing or other equipment rubs against your skin. Your skin becomes dry, then irritated, and then starts to crack and bleed. If you have run a long-distance race and noticed runners, especially men, come across the finish line with blood stains on their shirts, it is usually from the chafing of unprotected nipples. Chafing can happen anywhere, but generally affects inner thighs, upper arms and anywhere a seam exists on your clothing. Avoid chafing by selecting appropriate clothing for your sport, which may include compression shorts or tights, or technical clothing that fits correctly. Avoid any rough materials and try out your clothing during practice before committing to wearing it for a longer event. Applying a lubricant such as petroleum jelly or other sport-specific glide product to high-risk areas will further reduce the risk of chafing. If you become chafed, treat the area as you would an open wound, keeping it clean, dry, and covered with a sterile piece of gauze.

Vaginal Bleeding

Women who experience light bleeding during high-intensity exercise should first make certain that they are not pregnant because spotting is a common side-effect of pregnancy. Assuming you are not pregnant, you might want to take light bleeding during exercise as a sign that you are stressing your body too harshly. It is common for your period to lighten or become less frequent during high-intensity training, but bleeding may be a sign you are doing too much. Some women do experience spotting during ovulation, but if this is not a normal occurrence for you, ease back on your workouts until the spotting goes away.

Rectal Bleeding

Hemorrhoids and fissures are common causes of rectal bleeding in endurance athletes. These issues particularly affect beginner athletes whose bodies are not yet accustomed to the increased amount of friction and sweat their bodies produce during a workout. Another cause is a condition known as ischemia, in which blood flow is decreased to certain areas of the colon during workouts. Dr. Cathy Fieseler suggests in Running Times Magazine that you avoid ibuprofen and aspirin for pain associated with rectal bleeding because both of those medications promote bleeding and are therefore counterproductive. She states, "as the longer workouts become routine, this problem should resolve."

Exercise-Induced Nosebleeds

During exercise, you blood pressure rises. This rise in blood pressure can cause blood vessels in your nose to burst. Nosebleeds more frequently strike individuals who exercise in cold, dry weather. If your nose bleeds, stop your workout and tilt your head forward. Compress the end of your nose until the bleeding stops. Because exercise-induced nosebleeds are associated with certain types of medication, such as warfarin, consult with your doctor if you experience bleeding while taking a prescription medication.

Cautions and Considerations

If you have prolonged, heavy or unusual bleeding, see your doctor immediately. Stay vigilant for signs of shock along with bleeding, which include shallow breathing, dizziness and confusion. Before using over-the-counter medications to treat bleeding, read the instructions carefully or ask your doctor. Hydration is key in minimizing many exercise-related bleeding occurrences, so drink plenty of water throughout your training program.