Though it may be both frustrating and embarrassing, suffering from erectile dysfunction is a common problem for men from a wide range of age groups.
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, up to 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction.
Many think that the only treatment is prescription medication, like sildenafil (commonly known by the brand name Viagra). But these pills can be expensive, cause side effects and interfere with other medications.
Prescription drugs aren’t the only solution when it comes to issues of sexual health. There are natural approaches worth considering when faced with challenges in this area
What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is the inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse.
How Does an Erection Happen?
An erection occurs due to a complex interaction between the vascular system, the parasympathetic, sympathetic, somatic and central nervous system with hormones and the muscular system also playing a significant role. An erection occurs when blood flows into the tubes within the penis faster than it can leave the penis and a closed hydraulic system maintains the erection.
It’s important to remember that having a problem every once in awhile does not mean you have ED. If the problem is an ongoing issue, it’s important to talk to your doctor, as it can sometimes be a sign of other health conditions that need treatment.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Though we may think of it being very simple, getting aroused is actually a complex process, involving both mental and physical aspects: the brain, hormones, emotions, nerves, muscles and blood vessels. Problems with any one of these can cause ED.
Physical causes that can contribute to Erectile Dysfunction include:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol or blood pressure
- Smoking and alcohol use
- Certain prescription drugs (including those connected to chemotherapy)
Cycling – The reason cycling may cause ED is that the seat puts constant pressure on the perineum—the area between the genitals and anus. This pressure can harm nerves and temporarily slow blood flow, which causes tingling or numbness in the penis and, eventually, ED. Be mindful that if you feel tingling or numbness in your penis after rides, stop riding for a week or two. These are warning signs that your cycling could lead to erectile problems. Also, always take regular breaks during long rides and wear padded bike shorts for extra protection.
Psychological causes that can contribute to Erectile Dysfunction include:
- Relationship problems (including breakdowns in communication)
- Other mental health conditions
In addition, there’s often a great deal of stress or anxiety that results from ED, which can make the condition worse.
How Does Physiotherapy Help Erectile Dysfunction?
In addition to answering questions about how diet and exercise may improve your ED, a physiotherapist can help you strengthen your pelvic floor muscles with simple exercises called Kegels.
Kegels are easy to do, once you know which muscles to target. One of the easiest ways to locate your muscles is during urination. Here’s how:
- Halfway through urination, try to stop or slow down the flow of urine.
- Don’t tense the muscles in your buttocks, legs, or abdomen, and don’t hold your breath.
- When you can slow or stop the flow of urine, you’ve successfully located these muscles.
Some men find these muscles by imagining that they are trying to stop the passage of gas. Squeezing these muscles gives a pulling sensation; these are the right muscles for pelvic exercises. It’s important not to contract other muscles.
Some men need biofeedback to help them target the right muscles.
These exercises have urinary and sexual health benefits and are easy to perform
Chiropractic & Physiotherapy Health Centre