Do you ever get that itchy feeling in your legs a mile or so into a run? You start with a small itch on your quad, then your other quad. Next your calves itch. Maybe your arms will get itchy or your abdomen starts to itch. You can’t resist it so you scratch it. Scratching it only makes you more itchy and then you notice your skin turning red. If it’s really bad you may just need to stop to itch your legs. It’s annoying, and uncomfortable! Not to mention embarrassing!
So what causes this? Inside of our bodies are major blood vessels and additionally smaller blood vessels called capillaries. There are millions of these tiny passage ways in our muscles and bodies. When we are too busy or lazy to hit the gym these capillaries collapse and there is a decrease in blood flow. When we get ourselves moving again and get to the gym or out for a run these capillaries begin to expand because of our rapid heart beat and faster blood flow. As these capillaries begin to expand it causes nearby nerves to send signals to the brain. Our brain interprets these signals as the need to itch. As your fitness improves the sensation should dissipate because you are in better shape! Yep, you pretty much are feeling your body getting fitter! Staying in shape and healthy is the best way to avoid this. So once you get moving, keep yourself moving with regular workouts and you won’t have to experience the dreaded itch again.
There are other causes that can cause itching in some runners. Factors like extreme cold or heat can cause this as well. In the case of cold weather our body pumps more blood to our organs and less blood to our muscles in our legs and arms in order to keep us warm. As a result your arms, hands, legs or feet can be cooler than your body. As you warm up the blood flow will return to these extremities and can trigger the itching sensation. Itching in warm weather is sometimes caused by exercise-induced vasculitis. Also keep in mind those running tights or shorts or that shirt you love can irritate your skin when you workout causing itching. Your lotion or other products can cause this as well. Obviously if you experience a rash or any other symptoms like diarrhea, or nausea or signs of an allergic reaction you should contact your physician or seek medical attention. As runners our bodies are our tools and vehicles to do what we love so I know your always checking in with yourself and will seek medical attention if needed!
I experience the Runner’s Itch, as I like to call it, every time I hit the pavement after a hiatus. Even a week away from running will trigger this for me. It’s frustrating and annoying but by now I know to expect it and don’t plan or expect much from my first run back. I just get out and run and try to resist the need to itch my legs. The next time I run it’s usually much better and I can expect more from my body and mind and the run itself. It is always hard to get back to a routine and this hurdle can be hard. Stay tough and get through it and as I said before…keep yourself moving if only a few days a week to avoid this in the future! In the winter I always try to dress warmly and avoid going from extreme colds to warmer indoor temperatures. I feel it’s better to walk for a little bit and restore blood flow to my entire body post run and then head indoors for a warm shower and dry clothes. In the end, this a small inconvenience for all of the satisfaction you can get from running and working out!
Just a reminder, I’m not a doctor or in the medical field. I’ve just learned this information from reading running magazines, articles and other information over the years and wanted to share. My disclosure is here.