Did you know that varicose veins are not just a problem that appears in your legs? As it turns out, varicose veins can develop in other sensitive areas of the body. And for men, one especially vulnerable area is in the testicles.
Yes, you read that correctly: about one in seven men has varicoceles, varicose veins in the testicles. It’s a condition where valves in the veins leading into the testicles fail, allowing blood to back up, just as it does with varicose leg veins. Though it’s a mostly harmless condition (though varicoceles can be linked to male infertility), it can also cause aching when you run, because exercise increases your blood flow, while gravity adds extra pressure to your sensitive parts.
In order to keep exercise from causing or worsening varicoceles, male runners need to be very careful when selecting underwear for their runs. First and foremost, boxers are a no-go for male runners: you need underwear that has some built in support. For this purpose, a close-fitting pair of boxer briefs may be your best bet.
Another way to ensure sufficient support? Try the layered approach. Wear two pairs of underwear beneath your running shorts or pants, to create a more protective hold while you pound the pavement. You may also want to consider sport-specific underwear, since specially designed shorts will eliminate other potential irritants like sweat or painful seaming.
Of course, too much of a good thing can be a problem too. Choose underwear that’s too tight, and you run the risk of cutting off testicular blood flow, which can also be problematic. You want to shoot for the Goldilocks compromise in this type of situation: test out several styles of shorts, and opt for the one that’s not too loose and not too tight. Chances are, the one that’s “just right” will also be the pair that best protects you from testicular varicose veins!