Runner's nipple: why it happens and how to prevent it

The runner's nipple, as its name implies, is a common injury in people who go for a run. It consists of a wound on the nipple due to continuous rubbing with clothing while exercising.

Although it is more prevalent in men, this injury can also occur in women and children. The problem is that it can be very annoying, since the nipple is a sensitive area. In addition, it carries complications, such as infection.

What is the runner's nipple?

The runner's nipple It is an injury that occurs in this area due to friction with clothing during the race. In most cases it is bilateral and consists of small cracks in both nipples.

Typically, it appears in people who go out for a run frequently or who do long-distance runs. The nipple, in both men and women, tends to protrude slightly. That is why it is easy for friction to occur with clothing when running, either with the shirt or with the bra in the case of women.

One of the most important triggers is the fabric of the clothing. Nylon, for example, is more associated with the appearance of the runner's nipple. Other aspects, such as temperature, also play a role. If it is cold, the nipple is usually more erect and it is easier for friction to occur.

In the case of women, it is more usual at certain times of the menstrual cycle. Just before menstruation, most runners have the most swollen and sensitive breasts.

A study published in Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia explains that almost 35% of people who run more than 60 kilometers a week suffer from a runner's nipple. However, in those who ran less than 30 kilometers per week the incidence did not reach 5%.

Long-distance runners are more exposed to the characteristic nipple friction injury.

What symptoms does it produce?

The runner's nipple, according to an article published in the Medical Journal of Chile, characterized by painful erosions and fissures. As we pointed out at the beginning, they are usually bilateral and can bleed.

This same study details that athletes in general are more exposed to certain infections. This is because moisture, sweat and other factors on these wounds make it easier for bacteria to proliferate.

The lesion is similar to an irritant dermatitis. At first there is redness and discomfort in the area. However, if running continues and friction continues, the skin can further erode, causing injuries.

So the main symptoms are pain, redness, and bleeding. The nipples and the breast itself are more sensitive than usual. In some cases, lichenification of the skin may appear, which is a process that consists of the thickening of the epidermis secondary to continuous friction or scratching.

How can the runner's nipple be avoided?

The truth is that the runner's nipple can be avoided. There are certain very simple measures to do so that we explain below. Above all, they are based on protecting them during the race.

Choose a suitable fabric

The fabric of the clothes we use for sports, especially when running, is very important. There are some materials that increase friction or that do not allow perspiration.

For example nylon shirts. They are more likely to provoke the runner's nipple. Ideally, shirts should be smooth, without seams or any embellishment on the chest that can rub. In addition, they must be breathable and fresh.

The bra is important

Most women usually wear bras when playing sports. Choosing the right sports bra is essential, as it will be the fabric that comes into direct contact with the nipple.

It is important that it is a well-fitting bra, that provides enough support so that the chest does not move too much with each stride. The fabric, as we explained in the previous case, must be breathable and not increase friction.

Nor should it have seams in the central area of ​​the chest. In the same way, the size should be appropriate, as well as ideally, the bra straps should be wide. This prevents them from getting too deep.

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Avoid long distances

Earlier we explained that the runner's nipple is more common in those who run long distances. It is unusual for it to appear in people who run less than 10 kilometers, unless it is as a result of poor tissue.

So, If this lesion appears, it is advisable to reduce the long strokes until it heals. In the event that you want to continue maintaining this habit, it is important to protect the area adequately.

Use lubricants or petroleum jelly

There are certain products that can prevent rubbing or damage the nipple skin. Applying petroleum jelly to this area works for many. It is a substance that helps lubricate the skin and protect it.

Talcum powder can also reduce this problem. The talc helps to dry the area, so it reduces irritation. It is a product that is used in many other abrasions, such as the inner thighs.

Protect the nipples during the race

In addition to the substances that we have explained, there are other ways to protect the nipples during the race. Nowadays specific liners are sold to avoid runner's nipple. They are a kind of bandages that adapt to the anatomical shape.

However, there are homemade methods that can simulate these liners. However, they may come off more easily due to sweat or chest hair.

Mountain races usually involve long distances, which favors the appearance of the runner's nipple.

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Runner's nipple should be treated

What you should remember is that, if you suffer from a runner's nipple, you should see a doctor. These cracks and wounds can easily become infected. For this reason, in many cases the use of antibiotic or disinfectant creams is required, which must be recommended by a specialist.

In addition, it is essential to properly clean this area. Ideally, dry the nipple thoroughly after washing and apply moisturizers or petroleum jelly again on it. Clothing used for sports should always be clean to reduce the risk of infection.