Hemorrhoids — swollen and inflamed vein in your anus and lower rectum — are never fun (to say the least). While they don't always cause pain, hemorrhoids that form right inside your anus can sometimes extrude through and become external hemorrhoids, which can be very painful.
Symptoms include bleeding during bowel movements, often showing up as bright-red blood on the toilet paper, along with pain, itching or swelling. They're linked to situations that strain the veins in the rectal or anal area — such as sitting on the toilet for prolonged periods of time or straining with bowel movements.
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Other common causes include the pregnancy-related pressure on rectal veins and age-related weakening of muscles and connective tissue. While some exercises cause straining and can worsen hemorrhoids, regular exercise is recommended to help heal and prevent hemorrhoids.
If you're generally an active person, you might wonder if you're alright working out with hemorrhoids. While the answer is usually yes — barring severe pain and/or excessive bleeding — there are certain exercises that can be helpful and others that can worsen your condition.
If you experience pain or bleeding after a bowel movement, you may have hemorrhoids. See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and to discuss a treatment plan.
Does Exercise Help Hemorrhoids?
Yes, there are safe exercises for hemorrhoids. According to Harvard Health Publishing, moderate aerobic exercise helps to stimulate the bowels, which, in turn, can prevent constipation and straining when you're trying to poop.
Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and circulation. By increasing circulation to your rectum, you can prevent your hemorrhoids from developing painful blood clots and help promote healing. Aerobic exercise also releases chemicals in your brain that help reduce pain and stress — both of which can occur with hemorrhoids.
Does that mean walking is good for hemorrhoids? Absolutely! It's an accessible, low-impact form of aerobic exercise. Try adding regular, 20-minute walks to your day.
Try These 4 Exercises for Hemorrhoids
- Contract your anal sphincter muscle. (Think: Preventing a bowel movement without straining.)
- Hold the contraction for 3 seconds.
- Repeat 5 times to complete a set and try to perform 3 or 4 sets of Kegels throughout your day.
Kegels can help with hemorrhoids by strengthening your pelvic floor and anal muscles, according to All About Hemorrhoids. This can help prevent internal hemorrhoids from becoming external hemorrhoids and increase circulation to your anus, helping treat existing hemorrhoids.
2. High Plank
- Lie face down on your belly with your palms on the floor underneath your shoulders and your feet flexed with toes on the floor.
- Press through your palms to lift yourself up into the top of a push-up position. Your body should make a straight line from your heels through your hips to your head.
- Look at the floor below your head to keep your neck neutral and breathe normally.
- Hold for at least 10 seconds, then lower yourself back to the floor.
As long as you're not bearing down on your anus, strengthening your abdominal and rectal muscles with exercises like planks won't cause hemorrhoids and can actually help treat irritating hemorrhoids. Plus, it doesn't require your backside to be in contact with the floor.
If eating more fiber, drinking more fluids and exercise aren't enough to promote soft stool and avoid constipation, your doctor may recommend stool softeners. In addition, soothing agents or pain relievers may be advised to help manage the discomfort and pain of hemorrhoids.
3. Marching in Place
- Stand up straight.
- Lift your right leg up toward your chest, stopping when your thigh is parallel to the floor and forming a 90-degree angle with your knee.
- Set your right foot down and repeat on the other leg.
- Repeat these leg lifts for 3 to 10 minutes, as you are able, to increase blood flow to your hemorrhoids, providing quicker healing and relief.
Yoga and stretching are good for treating and helping prevent hemorrhoids, according to Asana International Yoga Journal. Focus on stretching your abdomen and thighs to best treat your hemorrhoids.
4. Forward Fold
- To treat external hemorrhoids, stand upright.
- Come up onto your toes and your reach your hands toward the sky.
- Bend forward and place your fingertips on the floor, if possible.
This exercise will strengthen your anal muscle and help prevent future external hemorrhoids.
Exercises to Avoid With Hemorrhoids
Some activities can make hemorrhoids worse. Standing and sitting, especially for long periods of time, both put strain on the veins in your rectum and can make hemorrhoids worse. And workouts that put direct pressure on your hemorrhoids, such as cycling, rowing and horseback riding, can increase pain and bleeding. Swap these for walking or swimming.
People often wonder, "Can sit-ups cause hemorrhoids?" The answer is yes. Exercises that heavily use the muscles in your back and abdomen, such as sit-ups (and even squats), increase internal abdominal pressure, which can make hemorrhoids worse.
Weightlifting with hemorrhoids also puts added strain on them due to increased muscle tension and abdominal pressure. Though weightlifting is generally considered safe if you have hemorrhoids (provided you're not in severe pain), you don't want to lift anything too heavy that causes you to strain.
Exercises that use the Valsalva maneuver — holding your breath while pushing to exhale, common in weightlifting — may also worsen hemorrhoids. However, if you have hemorrhoids and already include strenuous exercise or weightlifting in your routine, you may be able to modify your lifting technique to minimize risk. But you should ask your doctor first.
Sometimes hemorrhoids require procedures or surgery to cut off the blood supply, so be sure to follow up with your doctor if you have continued pain or bleeding.
Also, blood in the stool can be a sign of something more serious, including cancer, so don't ignore this symptom. If you have bloody or maroon stool, see a doctor right away.
- All About Hemorrhoids: "Exercises for Healing and Managing Hemorrhoids"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Hemorrhoids and What to Do About Them"
- World Journal of Gastroenterology: "Treatment of Hemorrhoids: A Coloproctologist's View"
- Asana International Yoga Journal: "Yoga Therapy for Hemorrhoids"
- Los Angeles Colon and Rectal: "Exercising With Hemorrhoids: The Do's and Dont's"
- Hemorrhoid Cures: "Hemorrhoid Exercises"