Jelqing: Is Penis Stretching a Winner or a Big Waste?

Jelqing may sound like a Finnish winter sport having its social media moment, but trust us when we tell you not to Google it from your work computer. It's actually a purported male enhancement technique. 

We get it — plenty of guys would change the girth and length of their penis if they could. While you may have heard some great things about jelqing, there are some things we'd like you to consider before giving it the ol' college try.

Below, we’ve explained what jelqing is and how it supposedly works, covered the risks and the scant data on rewards, and suggested some other considerations if you’re worried about the size of your penis — and that's okay. Many of us are.

What is Jelqing (Penis Stretching)? 

Jelqing is a manual penis stretching exercise that claims to increase your penile length using your hand (or a special device) to pull or massage the tissue of your penis. Jelqing creates micro-tears in the tissues of your penis that may result in a very slightly longer penis after doing it many times and they heal. 

Jelqing, however, isn’t an evidence-based, conventional medical treatment — it’s not the type of technique your healthcare provider will tell you to employ. Nevertheless, it has grown in popularity over the last few decades. Videos, countless message board posts and non-medical guides all claim jelqing makes your penis longer.

There’s also no official technique, though many explainers look fairly similar. Most jelqing techniques involve stretching your penis with your fingers while it’s in a semi-erect state, typically by repeatedly massaging along your penis using your thumb and index finger.

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How Jelqing Works

The process of how to jelq can be broken down into the following jelqing exercise steps (provided for reference only, of course):

  1. Warm up your penis using a compress or warm bath. This may help improve blood flow and get your penis into a semi-erect state.

  2. Apply lubricant to your penis to reduce friction. Using lube may reduce your risk of developing soreness or skin inflammation from the jelqing motion.

  3. Make the “OK”  sign with your thumb and index finger, then hold the base of the penis in this position (using your thumb and index finger to encircle your penis).

  4. Keeping your thumb and index finger wrapped around your penis, slowly pull away from your body until you reach the head of your penis, applying light and consistent pressure throughout the entire movement.

  5. Once you reach the end of your penis, move your thumb and finger back to the base of your penis and repeat the movement. 

If you’re planning to give jelqing a go, you should know that you shouldn’t do it if your penis is erect (nor should you do it during masturbation), and you should stop doing it if you begin to experience discomfort. 

Does Jelqing Work?

Jelqing, does it work? Claims about the benefits of jelqing exercises are, frankly, a stretch. Currently, there’s no scientific evidence that suggests that jelqing is effective at increasing penis length or girth, or that it produces any real improvements in sexual function or performance. 

In other words, no doctors are convinced jelqing offers any improvements to your sex life.

In fact, the scientific research on jelqing that does exist largely suggests that in addition to being ineffective, it may also be harmful.

Over the years, researchers have looked into the effectiveness of penis stretching for men who feel unsatisfied with their penile size. 

In the only worthwhile study we could find on mechanical penis stretching, one “penile extender” device called the AndroPenis® was tested in a group of 15 men (FYI: that’s a very, very small study group).

The men’s penile measurements were taken prior to the start of the study, then again after one, three, six and 12 months of treatment.

After six months of treatment with the device for four to six hours a day — every day — the average soft penis size of the participants had increased by 0.7 inches.

Yes, you read that right — four to six hours of traction therapy for your penis, per day. That’s approximately 720 hours of having your penis in a traction device for a gain of a little more than half an inch in length. 

So, maybe if you have no plans to go anywhere or do anything for a long while, this method of penis enlargement may be worth considering. If that doesn't seem feasible, you'll have to keep searching for alternatives. 

Risks of Penis Stretching

Exercise always carries a risk of injury, and penis exercise is frankly no different. Based on the limited research we currently have, jelqing doesn’t exactly seem to have the best safety record and may result in some undesirable jelqing exercise side effects. 

According to Weill Cornell Medicine, penis stretching techniques have the potential to damage the nerves inside your penis, cause vein thrombosis (the development of blood clots) and lead to bruising.

Jelqing is also associated with an increased risk of bruising, pain and fibrotic scarring, which is the development of scar tissue in the penis that can sometimes lead to Peyronie’s disease — a condition where erections become painful due to scarring of the penile tissue, curvature and other changes.

Studies of similar techniques for penis enlargement have also involved complications, including hematoma and numbness around the glans penis (the tip of the penis, and the most sensitive area during sex).

Overall, it’s important to understand that jelqing and other do-it-yourself techniques for enlarging your penis can have significant risks, including some that may affect your ability to have sex with your partner. 

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Alternatives to Jelqing

When it comes to increasing penis size, there aren’t very many reliable options out there that would be considered first-line medical advice from a urology expert. 

Currently, the best alternatives to jelqing are:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED) medications

  • Surgical procedures to lengthen your penis

  • Improving your sexual confidence

  • Vacuum erectile devices (VEDs)

  • Penis sleeves and other sex toys

  • Fat transfer procedures to increase penile girth

These alternatives vary in effectiveness, results and potential to cause side effects and complications. We’ve discussed each option below, including how it works and what you can expect in terms of penis size and sexual function.

Erectile Dysfunction Medications

ED medications like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®) and avanafil (Stendra®) can help you to maintain firmer, more reliable erections, especially if you’re prone to issues such as erectile dysfunction. 

These medications don’t physically enlarge your penis, but the improvements in blood flow and firmness they provide might make your penis look and feel slightly larger during sex.

They’re also helpful for improving your confidence if you have sexual performance anxiety as a result of your penis size or erectile dysfunction. 

Penis Enlargement Surgery

Penis enlargement surgery, or penile elongation surgery, involves cutting the penile suspensory ligament — a ligament at the top of your penis that holds your penis against the pubic bone and supports it when it’s erect.

This type of procedure can produce a small increase in the length of your penis, but it comes at a cost. Because the penile suspensory ligament is responsible for holding your penis up during an erection, cutting it may cause your penis to “hang” even when it’s hard.

This type of surgery also has a considerable complication rate and recovery time, meaning you might be out of action for some time afterward as your penis heals. 

Fat Transfer to the Penis

This procedure involves removing fat from other areas of your body via liposuction, then transferring the fat to your penis. This extra fat can give you a little more girth.

However, since the penis isn’t very fatty, injecting fat into this area can often result in an uneven, lumpy appearance that’s far from natural. It’s also common for the fat graft to lose some or all of its volume, with a 20 to 80 percent loss of fat typical in one year after this type of procedure.

Vacuum Erectile Devices (VEDs)

If undergoing surgery for a mild increase in penis length or girth isn’t for you, you might want to consider using a vacuum pump — also referred to as a vacuum erectile device, penis pump or VED.

VEDs work by creating negative pressure around the blood vessels of your penis, which can improve blood flow and make it easier to get an erection. While research suggests that these devices don’t actually give you a bigger penis, many men report finding them psychologically helpful.

You can learn more about VEDs and their effects on your penis in our detailed guide to vacuum erection devices

Improving Your Sexual Confidence

Another option is to focus on improving your sexual confidence in other ways, and avoid obsessing over inches. 

Real talk: penis size isn’t often your partner’s main concern — your confidence in bed, hygiene, erectile function and sexual stamina are far more important for a healthy sexual relationship. Communication can also fill in the gaps, so to speak, which is why foreplay, dirty talk and other warm-ups can make such a difference. 

Sometimes, how you feel about your penis doesn’t reflect reality. There’s even a diagnosis of “small penis anxiety” or “small penis syndrome” to accompany this feeling.

If you’re self-conscious about your size and it’s causing you discomfort in intimate situations (or to avoid them), you might consider talking to someone about penis dysmorphia — a very real version of body dysmorphia where men become preoccupied with the size of their penis and consider it shameful or a handicap (it’s neither).

Penis Sleeves & Other Sex Toys

If you’re concerned that your partner isn’t satisfied during sex, you may want to consider trying a penis sleeve. 

A penis sleeve is a hollow support device that you wear over your penis. It increases your length and girth, which may result in more pleasurable sex for you and your partner.

Adding other sex toys into the mix may also help to increase your confidence in bed and create a more pleasurable experience

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The Bottom Line on Penis Stretching

It’s far from uncommon to feel anxious about your penis size.

If you’re concerned about your penis size and think jelqing could be a good way to improve your sexual confidence, there are a few things you should remember:

  • There’s no strong evidence that jelqing is effective. Studies are few and small in scale, and most research suggests that jelqing and other manual stretching techniques have little to no effect on your penis size in the long term.

  • There is evidence that jelqing could hurt you. Any penile enlargement technique that involves applying pressure to your penis can cause harm, including bruising, nerve damage and the development of scar tissue.

  • Finally, you probably don’t need jelqing anyway. Most guys don’t have a penis like the ones you see in porn, yet the proliferation of porn has made men increasingly self-conscious. In a study published in the journal BJU International in 2014, the average erect penis length was 13.12 cm (approximately 5.2 inches), with a circumference of 11.66 cm (4.6 inches). The average flaccid penis length was 9.16 cm, or about 3.6 inches.

  • These measurements are average penis sizes. And if you remember middle school math, you’ll know that this means true "normal" can fall well below or above 5.2 inches.

  • Learn to appreciate what you have, and remember that porn is more often the product of studio lighting, camera lenses and editing than reality.

If you’re concerned about his or her satisfaction, don’t assume it would be fixed with a bigger member. Instead, focus on the aspects of sex you can improve — your confidence, your sexual technique and your ability to get and maintain an erection.

Need help with any of these? Browse our complete range of erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation treatments online, or learn more about keeping yourself and your partner satisfied in bed with our guide to having better sex

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.

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