Sometimes You Won’t Know If or Where You’ll Chafe

Mercy Health Tip of the Week by Rebecca Wenninger, MS, ATC

Chafing is a prevalent issue experienced by both men and women within the world of marathon running. Chafing occurs when constant friction is applied to skin. The friction can be a result of either clothing or another area of skin rubbing onto a section of skin. Prolonged periods of friction can produce raw and painful lesions. An issue such as chafing should not be overlooked because it can become debilitating (if you dare and are not squeamish with blood, look up pictures of Runner’s Nipples on the internet). The last thing any marathon runner wants is to have something slow him/her down during a race.

There are some common “problem areas” that both men and women experience chafing. They include:

  • Inner Thighs
  • Armpits
  • Waistline

With regards to men, they are more likely to experience chafed nipples. This is because sports bras typically provide enough protection for women. With that said though, the sports bra can become problematic for women. Chafing under the straps of the bra can occur.

The Best Treatment for Chafing is Prevention
Some people are predisposed to chafing in certain areas. Sometimes you do not know whether or not or where you are prone to chafing until you start becoming physical active. Address the issue before the start of the race if you know that you are likely to chafe in a certain area. This will be helpful in the long run.

In general, cotton clothing should be avoided. Moisture wicking clothes are your best bet. Both sweat and water can result in horrible cases of chafing. Moisture absorbing powders and lubricants should also be applied to common problematic areas. Generic products such as baby powder and petroleum jelly are sufficient enough to do the job. However, there are specially designed products out there such as BodyGlide that can be purchased at running shops to prevent chafing. Even products such as Band-Aids and Chapstick can be beneficial. The truth is that there are a ton of products on the market right now that can be utilized to prevent chafing. Go and shop around for what you like best…ask other runners what they use to prevent chafing.

Removal of wet clothing, if possible, is another way to prevent chafing. Unfortunately, this is not always the best option during a race. Another idea is to bring a small amount of powder or lubricant with you during the race so that it can be reapplied as necessary.

Sometimes chafing occurs no matter how much prevention is utilized. Treatment of chafed skin includes gentle cleansing and the application of a liniment such as diaper rash cream or triple anti-biotic ointment. Eventually the chafed area will scab over and begin to heal. It is important that a lubricant is applied to the scab before physical activity in order to prevent re-chafing.

Chafing is not a life-threatening condition, but talk with a runner that has experienced chafing and he/she will tell you how much of an issue it can be. A little time spent preparing for chafing could just possibly save you a lot of time and pain on race day and for several day after your race.

And remember if you need to seek out a physician, the team at Mercy Health Sports Medicine is available 24 hours a day on our sports medicine hotline at (419) 754-PLAY.

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* This content is not intended to replace any formal training plans directed by licensed coaches. You should always get your doctors go-ahead prior to embarking on any fitness regime. Mercy Health, Glass City Marathon and the Toledo Roadrunners Club are not offering this content to replace a monitored training plan. — Use this content as conversation starters with your doctors, nutritionists, coaches, etc.