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Are Shorts Messing With Your Vulva?

You could be ruining your health while you're covering your butt.

If you've ever worn a pair of fitted shorts without a lot of give, you know that sitting can put pressure on your crotch. This can impair circulation, pinch nerves, lead to chaffing, and leave you with an awkward frontal wedgie made even worse by walking or biking.

Some tight-shorts lovers barely notice this (or they do feel discomfort, but just suck it up). But others suffer from pain, burning, irritation, and even bruising around the vulva (the outer area of the vagina), with symptoms that can last for days. 

It's extremely unlikely for tight shorts to cause permanent damage or interfere with your sexual functioning, but they can trigger yeast infections. If you're genetically prone to vulvodynia (i.e., persistent vulvar pain), wearing super-tight bottoms on the regular could eventually cause a flare-up.

Otherwise, there are some stupid-simple ways to prevent vulvar pain in the first place, Dr. Harris says. First of all, buy shorts that fit, and make sure tight bottoms (i.e., your Daisy Dukes) have a little bit of give. (Just feel out the fabric, or look for Lycra or Spandex on the label.) 

When you do wear fitted bottoms, wear cotton underwear underneath—it'll provide a barrier between your crotch and any uncomfortable pant seams. You'll also want to avoid activities like biking that put extra pressure on your crotch—particularly after shaving the area, which can lead to additional irritation. If you feel any sort of discomfort while you wear a particular piece, take it off ASAP—easy! Then consider wearing looser bottoms for a few days.

If these first lines of defense fail (or if your jeans shorts are a staple that you're not willing to part with), try a painkiller like Advil, a warm bath, a cold compress (it's great for itching), or apply a gentle, unscented moisturizer for relief, Dr. Harris suggests. And as always, also avoid douching, using vaginal wipes, deodorants, scented bubble bath, or scented tampons or pads—all of them can irritate the area (and some may increase your exposure to dangerous chemicals, according to recent research). If your pain persists for more than a few days, you should definitely see your doctor—sans tight shorts, if you're expecting any sympathy.

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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.