Can vibrators help men after prostatectomy get their erections back?
There once was a Danish scientist and researcher called Mikkel Fode.
He thought through the ED after prostate cancer surgery a bit differently…
What helped men experiencing sexual function changes from spinal cord injury? Could any of the techniques be applied to help men after prostate surgery?
He stumbled upon a non-invasive technique called ‘Penile Transcutaneous Mechanical Nerve Stimulation’ (TMNS). Translated from Science to English : ‘vibrating stick on a penis’.
Previous studies showed that when men with spinal cord injury used TMNS (vibration) this caused ejaculation in 90% of cases. They believe this is due to the vibration exciting a nerve pathway directly from the surface of the penis to ejaculatory nerve bundles at the base of the spine. This allowed men with spinal cord injury to ejaculate without spontaneous erections - and funnily enough - they also had a pleasurable response using this technology.
Of course after prostate cancer removal surgery, ejaculation is not possible - Here is why this study is still exciting though - The ejaculatory nerve bundles being stimulated by the vibrations are believed to be the neighbouring bundles to those responsible for erections.
Therefore the Danish researcher thought - would this same technique potentially help the neuropraxia process (erection nerve recovery) for patients experiencing ED after prostate cancer removal surgery??
In 2013 he rounded up 68 men undergoing prostate cancer removal. For one week pre-op 30 of these men were instructed to use TMNS (the vibrating stick) daily on the frenulum (most men know this as ‘the bit that feels really good’ on the underside of the penis - please Google this for some precise anatomy... if you are not at work).
The men were instructed to apply 10 sets of 10 seconds of vibration therapy pressed against the frenulum. They then did this same daily routine for 16 weeks immediately following catheter removal.
The other 38 men in the experiment were given ‘usual care’, a recommendation for PDE5s (viagra/cialis).
At 3 months and 12 months post surgery all men were given a standardised survey to assess their erectile function.
At 3 months post-surgery all men in both groups had a score of ‘5’ from the IIEF (international index of erectile function. This result reflects no spontaneous erections.
At 12 months post surgery however, the men who had been using ‘the stick’ for those 16 weeks had an average score of ‘18’. This result suggests that the majority of men in the group had some erectile response but not complete spontaneity.
In contract, those men who had not used the stick had a score of ‘7.5’ at 12 months. This indicates that very few had regained any erectile function since the 3 month mark
This would indicate quite the improvement! However, Fode was a bit disappointed, when he ran these numbers past statistical analysis, he did not get the marvellous YES factor researchers hope for : 'statistical significance'.
So, has this technique got potential, although lacking the ‘hard data’ (puns always intended)?
Well, this study has the usual drawbacks of most sexual function studies in the penile rehab field :
1. data was not taken over a long enough period of time. Nerve recovery after prostate surgery has the potential to continue to 2 years, we still see progress up to 5 years.
2. the scientific model is a bit inefficient for something as socially influenced and complex as sexual function/well-being. For example, we’ve found correlations for ‘perceived partner support’ to play a role in erection recovery (I’ll go fetch that reference in a tick - it’s an interesting one). This study didn’t gather data around whether the men actually enjoyed the vibration, that feels like a potentially big confounding factor in my books.
3. Small samples sizes. Again, scientific model for robust stats needs large sample sizes. Most sexuality studies suffer from this however because recruiting a large number of people is time and money consuming, and frankly researchers do not get taught the marketing skills needed to get a population of people keen on being part of a study (even one about vibrating penis sticks)
That being said - I think this technique shows promise as an addition to a penile rehab routine and should still be investigated.
The absolute worst that can happen is that you try using a vibrator on your penis as part of your rehabilitation routine for say a month. It doesn’t do anything for you. You don’t continue using it (but your partner might enjoy the vibration sensations instead - vibrators are genderless pleasure tools depending on their shape).
THE TAKE HOME TECHNIQUE
You can try this method flaccid (although by all reports from my clients who try this, it’s easier to get a good grasp on things when they had ‘something to work with’), so if you can create one using an erection aid, try with a semi-erect or erect penis (pills plus arousal or pump or injection, whatever works for you currently).
Place the vibrator (at a setting/‘speed’ that feels pleasurable to you) on the frenulum for 10 seconds, pause and repeat for 5 sets at first while you are getting used to it.
The time you use it for at this point in time is something to play around with, as is the frequency (‘speed’) of the vibrator.
The clients I have trialled this with tend to find a frequency that ‘works’ for them and then adapt the time they use the vibrator for in the same way they do with the pump (listen to your body and what feels right at the time).
The we-vibe match in particular on the ‘pulsing’ setting seems to work for three of my clients who are currently attempting this method -- Note: they’ve all reported that it tends to not do much the first few times. Give it a go for a month with your usual masturbation routine, and on top of any other erections methods to see if it’s for you.
A BIG DISCLAIMER : Everyone is different. This is one pilot study with small sample sizes and the results are encouraging but not statistically significant. This means that no outcome can be guaranteed. While we live in hope for funding for better studies to be done on these methods, I still feel it’s still worth talking about them. Any non-invasive safe options that might be very helpful to some, or at the very least an enjoyable experience for many, feel worth investigating even if it is at a blogger level.