Andrew Siegel MD 12/5/15
Reviresco – (Latin, re- + viresco) “I become green or verdant again”; “I am renewed or revived.”
Outliving Your Penis
It is very possible that you will “outlive” your penis. It will always be there for you in terms of a “spigot” to allow you the privilege of standing up to aim your urinary stream with reasonable accuracy, although this too suffers the ravages of time. However, in terms of being able to obtain or maintain an erection, your penis may perish decades before you do, for a variety of reasons.
The focus of today’s blog is ED due to prostate cancer treatment, although it is equally relevant to any man suffering with ED for any reason. Having one’s prostate removed is a highly successful means of curing prostate cancer. However, despite advances in technical and surgical approach, trauma to nerves, blood vessels, and muscular tissue during surgery can compromise sexual function, with ED being the most common complication. The effect of radical prostatectomy on the penis is not unlike the effect of a stroke on the brain: in both situations a neuro-vascular (nerve/blood vessel) event occurs that may profoundly disturb function. 90% of men experience some degree of ED in the early post-surgery recovery period. The good news is that there are effective “rehab” and even “prehab” methods to optimize preservation and return of sexual function.
Even if your penis has “expired” in terms of becoming rigid, it is still capable of being stimulated to ejaculation and orgasm, a phenomenon eventually discovered by many men. This is a small consolation (pun intended) for suffering with ED.
If your penis is not completely lifeless, it may be impaired such that you can obtain an erection, but lose it prematurely, or you can obtain at best a partially firm, non-penetrable erection. As if having a crippled penis were not severe enough punishment, to add insult to injury one of the consequences of lack of erections and sexual inactivity is further compromise of the future potential for erections. In other words, you need to obtain erections in order to maintain erections.
Use It Or Lose It
Erections not only provide the capacity for penetrative sex, but also serve to keep the erectile chambers (erectile smooth muscles and vascular sinus tissues) richly oxygenated, elastic and functioning. If one goes too long without an erection, damage to this erectile apparatus can result in penile atrophy (shrinkage) and compromised function. In a vicious cycle, the poor blood flow from disuse induces scarring and further damage to erectile smooth muscle and sinus tissues that often gives rise to venous leakage (rapid loss of erections as blood cannot be properly trapped within the erectile chambers). The bottom line is that in the absence of regular erections, one will likely lose length, girth and function, with the penis hobbled by its inability to properly trap blood.
As an aside, one of the functions of sleep erections—the spontaneous nocturnal erections that occur during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in healthy men—is to maintain the erectile chambers in good working order. As sleep has an important restorative function for the human body, so sleep erections have a vital restorative function for the human penis.
Achieving erections when they fail to occur by natural means is vital for sexual “resurrection” (l like the sound of this word—say it slowly). In time, the nerves that were “stunned” and/or injured by radical prostatectomy will usually heal and during this convalescing time, obtaining erections will help preserve erectile tissue. The implication is that even if you are sexually inactive, if you anticipate being sexually active in the future, you need to keep the penis and erectile apparatus fit.
Many urologists recommend penile “rehabilitation” when healed up after radical prostatectomy. Traditional rehab involves a combo of pills, injections and vacuum therapy, a.k.a. vacuum suction device (VSD). Some men use one, two or all three of these rehab strategies.
The oral ED medications (Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, and Stendra) can help maintain penile blood flow and provide the benefits that derive from maintaining tissue oxygenation. However, they are double-edged swords as they cannot be used in the face of certain medical conditions, have side effects, are expensive (costing about $40 per pill) and are not effective in all comers.
For those who do not respond to pills, the next step is often penile injections. Vasodilator drugs are injected directly into the erectile chambers to induce an erection. A mixture of one or more medications is often used for this purpose. Unfortunately–despite its effectiveness–many men are not fond of putting a needle in their penis and often nix this means of treatment.
The VSD is the third traditional rehab element. Starting 6 weeks or so after surgery and pursued for 10 minutes daily, the VSD mechanically engorges the penis in an effort to keep the erectile chambers healthy.
The Erection Recovery Program
“Prehab” is a means of pre-rehabilitation that is started shortly after the diagnosis of prostate cancer, during the time period when one awaits being operated upon. Instead of waiting for after-the-fact rehab, prehab intends to maximize sexual function before surgery in an effort to hasten recovery of erectile function after surgery. Committing to the erection recovery program before the trauma of surgery permits one to go into the operation optimally prepared.
The Erection Recovery Program combines two non-pharmacological, non-invasive tools—vibratory nerve stimulation and pelvic floor muscle training—to stimulate the nerves that produce erections and to strengthen the muscles that contribute to erectile rigidity, respectively. The traditional rehab program can be highly effective; however, it addresses primarily blood flow, a vital element of erectile physiology, while not focusing on nerve stimulation and pelvic floor/perineal muscle function, important contributors to the erectile process.
Vibratory-tactile nerve stimulation in men was originally conceived (pun intended) for spinal cord injured patients who desired to father children but were incapable of doing so because of their inability to ejaculate. However, vibro-tactile nerve stimulation is equally effective in inducing erection as well as ejaculation/orgasm in the non-spinal cord injured population and its use has been expanded to the general male population.
The pelvic floor/perineal muscles activate at the time of sexual stimulation, compressing the deep roots of the penis and fostering hypertensive blood pressures in the erect penis in excess of 200 mm, responsible for rock-hard rigidity. Pelvic floor muscle training has been used to bolster the strength, power and endurance of these muscles in order to optimize erectile rigidity and durability. Without well functioning pelvic floor/perineal muscles, full rigidity will not occur.
Oral meds, injection and/or vacuum therapy help prevent erectile tissues from losing elasticity and becoming scarred and less functional from the absence of erections. Similarly, nerve stimulation and pelvic floor/perineal muscle training help maintain the integrity of the erectile tissues as well as help prevent the pelvic floor/perineal muscles from atrophying in the absence of erections. By keeping the pelvic floor/perineal muscles fit, when erections ultimately do return, function can be optimized.
The combination of nerve stimulation and pelvic floor muscle strengthening is a powerful alliance that is prescribed “prehab” as well as after radical prostatectomy to shorten the time it takes to recover erections. Its merits are its simplicity, safety, efficiency and the fact that it is actually pleasurable to pursue. It does not preclude the use of the traditional rehab program, which can be used in conjunction with the Erection Recovery Program.
Specifically, the Erection Recovery Program consists of the Viberect nerve stimulation device and the Pelvic Rx pelvic floor muscle training program. Viberect, manufactured by Reflexonic, is an FDA-certified hand-held penile vibro-tactile nerve stimulation device that triggers erection and ultimately ejaculation. The Pelvic Rx program, manufactured by Adult Fitness Concepts, is a FDA-registered, comprehensive, interactive follow-along exercise program to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance. Basic Training strengthens the pelvic floor muscles with a series of progressive “Kegel” exercises, while Complete Training provides maximum opportunity for gains via resistance equipment.
The critical principle for erectile recovery is achieving an erection for at least several times weekly during the recovery period after prostate surgery. Penile vibro-tactile nerve stimulation coupled with pelvic floor muscle training is a synergistic combination that promotes initiation and maintenance of erections, respectively.
This Erection Recovery Program is used prehab (prior to radical prostatectomy) and continued after surgery. It offers a non-pharmacological option for erection recovery, but can also be used in conjunction with traditional penile rehab programs that use medications. The Erection Recovery Program is also appropriate for any man who wants to improve sexual function, regardless of the underlying cause.
To obtain the Erection Recovery Program:
Wishing you the best of health,
A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”: www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com
Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: available in e-book (Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo) and paperback: www.MalePelvicFitness.com. In the works is The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health.
Co-creator of Private Gym, a comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training program. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, Private Gym empowers men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: www.PrivateGym.com or Amazon.
Tags: Andrew Siegel MD, bulbocavernosus muscle, disuse atrophy, erectile dysfunction, erection, erection recovery program, ischiocavernosus muscle, male pelvic fitness, pelvic floor muscle training, pelvic floor muscles, Pelvic Rx, penile rehabilitation, prostate cancer, radical prostatectomy, sleep erections, urology, Viberect, vibratory-nerve stimulation