Squats are one of the best exercises for targeting the largest muscles in the body. But if you use too much weight or lift with improper form or breath, squats can also trigger hemorrhoids. The good news? With a few modifications, you can still include squats in your overall workout plan.
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Can Squats Cause Hemorrhoids?
Hemorrhoids, which are inflamed veins around your anus, can develop internally or externally. Internal hemorrhoids are in the lining of the anus and lower rectum. In contrast, external hemorrhoids develop under the skin surrounding the anus, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
You can get hemorrhoids from lifting heavy objects like a piano or washer and dryer.
Regularly performing heavy squats can also increase your risk of developing hemorrhoids, but it doesn't cause them. "It comes down to pressure management," says Sara Reardon, DPT, physical therapist and owner of NOLA Pelvic Health in New Orleans. If you're holding your breath while lifting and not managing your intra-abdominal pressure, Reardon says that pressure can contribute to prolapse and hemorrhoids.
Liz Simons, DPT, physical therapist and owner of Terra Wellness in Roslyn and Farmingdale, New York, says the risk increases if the technique creates a lot of unmatched pressure on the pelvic organs and vessels.
Ideally, the transverse abdominals and pelvic floor will contract together with your breath to pull the pelvic floor up while corseting the abdominals. "This protects the pelvic floor from pressure loss downward and strain on the pelvic organs and vessels," Simons says.
If there are kinks in this system, and the pressure taken on the body from heavy weightlifting is not matched by the pressure resisting it, Simons says hemorrhoids can result from the strain.
How to Reduce Your Risk
Lifting weights creates an increase in intra-abdominal pressure. If there is a lot of pressure from lifting heavy and not managing intra-abdominal pressure, Reardon says that pressure has to find a way out and it does so by putting pressure on your bottom and causing hemorrhoids.
To reduce the risk of developing hemorrhoids while lifting weights, Reardon says both men and women can try the following:
- Avoid using a weight belt while lifting, which can cause more strain.
- Exhale with exertion and avoid breath-holding.
- Decrease the amount of weight.
- Learn to use your breath and exhale while lifting, then recruit your deep abdominal transverse abdominal and pelvic floor while lifting.
"Once you're able to implement these techniques, then gradually increase your weight while lifting," Reardon says.
Simons suggests learning more about the synergistic connection of your diaphragm, transverse abdominals and pelvic floor muscles from a pelvic floor physical therapist. This can help you improve form and technique, reducing the risk of hemorrhoids.
"Working on creating a balanced and dynamic (not stiff) system of breathing, lower core activation and pelvic floor control is imperative to protecting your body from repetitive strain that can lead to hemorrhoids," she says.
Other Causes of Hemorrhoids
Hemorrhoids can form from anything that creates strain on the rectal veins, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). This includes:
- Straining during bowel movements.
- Chronic constipation or diarrhea.
- Holding your breath with lifting or pushing anything moderately heavy.
- A low-fiber diet.
- Sitting on the toilet for long periods.
- Age-related weakening of the supporting tissues in your anus and rectum.
If symptoms persist after one week or you're bleeding from your rectum, NIDDK suggests making an appointment to see a doctor, who can order a series of tests and procedures to diagnose hemorrhoids. If positive, your doctor may recommend continued at-home treatments such as adding more fiber to your diet, changes to lifting techniques and using an over-the-counter hemorrhoid cream.
Most cases go away without medical interventions, but if your hemorrhoids persist or get worse, the NIDDK says your doctor may treat your hemorrhoid with an in-office procedure that cuts off the blood supply.
Read more: Foods That Help Heal Hemorrhoids and Foods to Avoid
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: “Hemorrhoids”
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Definition and Facts of Hemorrhoids”
- Sara Reardon, PT, DPT, WCS, BCB-PMD, physical therapist; owner, NOLA Pelvic Health; founder, The Vagina Whisperer, New Orleans
- Liz Simons, PT, DPT, physical therapist; owner, Terra Wellness, Roslyn and Farmingdale, New York
- NIDDK: "Diagnosis of Hemorrhoids"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.