ED, short for Erectile Dysfunction, became a recognizable term thanks to countless television and magazine ads for the “little blue pill,” known as Viagra. While other ED medications have followed, Viagra is credited with helping to break the silence on ED. The risqué decision to talk about sexual dysfunction publicly, through advertising, helped to make it socially acceptable to share struggles men were having with ED.
Erectile Dysfunction is defined as the inability to achieve or maintain an erection adequate for satisfactory sexual pleasure. While ED can be devastating to those who are experiencing it, it can also be a measure of overall health. Overall health? Really? Yep! The male erection is attained by a successful combination of the hormonal, neurological, vascular, and muscular systems. When there is a problem with one of these systems, ED occurs.
Fortunately, much of ED is treatable, and a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in Pelvic Rehabilitation can be a great option-here’s how:
The Vascular System – The Vascular System is responsible for blood flow throughout our body, including the penis. Blood flow is mostly directed by our heart and helps with the first phase of erection where blood fills the caverns that make up the shaft of the penis. The more blood that is pumped into the area, the stiffer the shaft of the penis gets, known as an erection. Issues affecting blood flow, such as Heart Disease, High Cholesterol, or Diabetes, just to name a few, can make achieving an erection difficult. Viagra (or similar medicines) help ED by improving the vascular system function to allow more blood flow into the shaft but must be prescribed by a Primary Care Provider (PCP) after a thorough examination.
The Neurological System – The Neurological System is a complex network of fibers, known as nerves, that relay sensory messages to the brain or spinal cord and relay messages from the brain or spinal cord to the muscle or organ. In the case of ED, nerves determine the sensation is pleasurable and start the process of erection by bringing the message to the muscles. Problems with the nervous system can be greatly affected when nerves are compressed with scar tissue or injured by playing sports, accidental injury, surgeries, or any conditions affecting the lower back.
The Muscular System – The Muscular System plays a vital role in erection by being able to keep blood in the shaft of the penis. This is known as the second phase of erection where the muscles of the pelvic floor (the muscles made sore by a bicycle seat) squeeze to keep the blood in the shaft of the penis. These muscles also need to relax to allow the blood out of the shaft of the penis after ejaculation occurs during sexual climax. Problems with ED related to the muscular system are often the result of weakness, excessive tightness, trigger points, or pain in the pelvic floor muscles, which can make erection more difficult or even painful.
The Hormonal System – The Hormonal System is very complex and affected by emotional states, environmental factors along with overall health, just to name a few. This is a complex area that should be addressed with a Primary Care Provider in conjunction with starting Pelvic Rehabilitation.
Now that you know “What’s Up (or not) Down There” how can you start making your sex life better?
Finding a Doctor of Physical Therapy specializing in Pelvic Rehabilitation is very important. These therapists are highly trained in this very sensitive area of the body. Pelvic Rehabilitation Specialists can address most of the systems involved with ED making Pelvic PT a great place to start addressing issues of ED. ED is often not easy to talk about, so you can even begin building rapport with your Therapist by emailing, calling, or setting up a free screening. A Pelvic Rehabilitation Specialist can let you know if PT is the right place to start for your issue or help direct you to any other resources that better fit your specific issues. It’s that easy to take back your health and sexual function by taking the time to see “What’s Up Down There!”
*Apex currently has 6 Doctor’s of Physical Therapy specializing in Pelvic Rehabilitation in Males.