Male sexual health has been gaining its due attention and clinical importance in the last few decades and Erectile Dysfunction encompassing a larger portion of all male sexual health disorders is increasingly observed as a public health challenge.
Erectile dysfunction affects over 50% of men above the age of 40. Recent research suggests that more than a quarter percentage of male population below the age of 40 are also affected by Erectile dysfunction. Despite high prevalence rates, the most sought after treatment of choice for Erectile Dysfunction is using oral medication that includes over the counter supplements and herbal remedies for ED that temporarily restore sexual function.
Physical therapy as an intervention in the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction is often neglected in clinical practice. In order to substantiate the need for Physical therapy in the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction, lets understand Erectile dysfunction and its facets.
What is Erectile Dysfunction or ED?
Erectile Dysfunction is the persistent inability to achieve or maintain penile erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Erectile dysfunction can result from a problem that involves the brain, hormones, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and stress or sometimes a combination of physical and psychological issues.
Erectile dysfunction is linked to a network of interrelated cardiovascular risk factors such as physical inactivity, obesity, hypertension and metabolic syndrome. In fact, its alarming to know that Erectile dysfunction can be an early sign and a predictor of future cardiovascular disease.
Commonly prescribed pills as treatment strategy to sustain penile erection only compensate for Erectile dysfunction and do not have a positive impact on vascular health. So, oral medication isn’t necessarily the only way to treat Erectile Dysfunction.
Specialist health care providers in sexual health clinics along with Physical therapists, by better understanding the web of factors influencing erectile function and considering Physical therapy as a first line of defense, can help men overcome erectile dysfunction and improve overall male sexual health.
Rehabilitation of optimum sexual function in men with Erectile Dysfunction can be brought about by Physical Therapy modalities.
Following are such Physical Therapy Options to treat Erectile Dysfunction:
Several reviews suggest that Physical activity as the most important promoter of vascular health, protects against Erectile Dysfunction. Recent studies recommend supervised aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity 4 times weekly for 40 minutes. Latest study stated “An overall weekly exercise dose of 160 minutes for 6 months contributes to a decrease of Erectile Dysfunction in men with vascular Erectile Dysfunction.”
Regular, structured physical exercise has consistently been shown to improve erectile function through different mechanisms involving glucose and lipid metabolism, regulation of arterial pressure, improved endothelial function, production and bio-availability of nitric oxide and hormonal modulation. Furthermore, exercise shows a synergistic effect with the drugs commonly used in the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction.
Aerobic exercises release endorphins, the feel good hormone that gives a positive feeling in the body which can boost sexual health. Moreover, the degree of sexuality enhancement among exercisers was correlated with the degree of their individual improvement in fitness. Other fitness regimes such as Yoga and Pilates have shown to reduce cortisol levels that help overcome stress and depression common among men with Erectile Dysfunction.
Strength training could be another way of promoting male sexual function. Weight lifting causes the body to produce Testosterone, which is the primary precursor for the male sex drive. There are studies that link short intense exercise, such as weight lifting, push-ups, sit-ups, and crunches with improved male hormone – Testosterone.
These muscle-building exercises can also help to strengthening the shoulders, chest and abs that add up to look good confidence and positive body image. This offers an immediate motivation for men to change their lifestyle habits and stay fit for better sexual health.
Pelvic Floor Therapy
Moving on to more specialized exercises, the role of Pelvic floor physical therapy in the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction has been reviewed and put forward. Rehabilitation of pelvic floor muscle function has long been suggested as a relevant component of the treatment for Erectile Dysfunction and has proved to be an effective therapy.
Pelvic floor exercises improve the strength of the pelvic floor muscles and enhance pelvic health. These exercises are more commonly known as Kegel exercises. In particular, they help to strengthen pubococcygeus and bulbocavernosus, important muscles that allows the penis to engorge with blood during erection and sustain the achieved erection. Male pelvic floor muscle training has been shown to increase penile rigidity.
The best method for locating the muscles of the pelvic floor (the lower pelvis) is to stop your stream several times in the middle of urination. The muscles you clench to do this are the ones you need to exercise.
To perform a repetition of Kegel exercises, squeeze those muscles, hold for five seconds, then relax. Repeat this 10 to 20 times, two or three times a day. You may want to try this in different positions, including lying down with your knees up, sitting in a chair, and standing. A study found that pelvic exercises helped 40 percent of men with ED regain normal erectile function. They also helped an additional 33.5 percent significantly improve erectile function.
Physical therapy with pelvic floor exercises should be considered as first-line approach for men seeking long term resolution for their Erectile Dysfunction. Pelvic floor endurance training has also proven effective in controlling premature ejaculation, another common male sexual health disorder.
Erectile Dysfunction, due to invariable gender performance standards and expectations in the society is a highly intimidating prospect for men. So, it’s not only worthwhile but also critical that men with sexual dysfunction seek help from a physical therapist for regulated aerobic exercise, strength training and pelvic floor physical therapy. Sticking to a regimented exercise program has the greatest long-term benefits to male sexual health.
Recommendation of Physical therapy in men with Erectile Dysfunction indicates a potential key role for physical therapists in the treatment of Erectile Dysfunction. Physical therapists are specialized in guiding and monitoring exercise programme aiming to rehabilitate the patient within the scope of individual patient’s preferences and possibilities. Specialized knowledge and qualification in fields of sexual health, sexual dysfunctions and sexual rehabilitation for Physical therapists will ascertain and assure the significance of physical therapy as a first line intervention in the treatment of Erectile dysfunction and male sexual health.