The adage “no pain, no gain” is great in theory, but it’s hard to get a good workout when all is not right with your body. It is not uncommon for runners to have pain in places other than their legs. Tongue pain can be caused by something as simple as increased circulation or a clenched jaw, but it can also be a sign of anemia. Tongue pain when running is rarely serious, but if you notice any other changes in your body or the pain is severe, consult your physician immediately.
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The tongue is the largest muscle in the body. Aside from containing the taste buds, your tongue helps with swallowing and is necessary for clear speech. The tongue is attached at the back of your throat as well as the bottom of your mouth. Practitioners of Chinese medicine believe that the appearance of your tongue indicates several things about the general state of your health. Western allopathic doctors generally start an examination by asking you to stick it out so they can check for infections and any signs of oral cancers.
Running, like most strenuous activities, increases your circulation. The main artery in your tongue, the lingual artery, is connected to your external carotid artery. So, as your heart rate goes up, the circulation and blood pressure in your tongue increase. Your tongue contains nerve endings, so you can feel this change, which you may experience as throbbing. Slowing to a walk, relaxing your mouth and taking slow, deep breaths should help ease the discomfort.
Some runners clench their jaws when they run, or hold their mouths rigid to help control their breathing. This can cause tension in your jaw, facial muscles and tongue, which can lead to throbbing in your tongue. Try to be conscious of your jaw muscles and tongue when you are running, and relax them by exhaling slowly and deeply and letting your tongue come to rest naturally against the roof of your mouth.
One of the more common causes of tongue pain is anemia, which is a deficiency of iron in your blood. Anemia can cause pain and swelling in your tongue. It can also lead to the desire to suck on or chew ice. If you have both symptoms you should have your health care provider test you for anemia. Eating a diet that is high in dark, green leafy vegetables and lean red meats and taking iron supplements can help prevent anemia.