Does Physical Therapy For Erectile Dysfunction Work?
Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
We get it. The image of a physical therapist working with your penis sounds like the perfect plot line to one of those videos on one of those websites you can’t access at work.
But, believe it or not, there are many occasions where your healthcare provider might set you up with a professional physical therapist to help you with your groin area. In fact, this is the basis for physical therapy for erectile dysfunction.
Erectile dysfunction has many causes — some easy to diagnose, some more complicated. It’s often a problem that’s dealt with using medication. But medication doesn’t work for every man, and some erectile dysfunction issues may require a more, erm, hands-on approach.
The best place to start is probably with the one most heavy question on your mind: how do I do physical therapy for my penis in the first place?
Let’s get into it.
How Does My Penis Do Physical Therapy, Exactly?
PT for your pee pee (Sorry, we had to) is not as dumb as it sounds.
After all, your erections require sustained muscle function. And the muscles that help you achieve an erection (your pelvic floor muscles) aren’t terribly different from the ones in your arms, legs and face.
And when you injure your arms, legs or face and need to rebuild your muscles, what do you do? You go to PT.
So, let’s start with some basics about your anatomy downstairs. You already know the easy stuff — your testicles, your prostate and your ejaculatory function. What you probably don’t think about often is the clusters of muscles that support all of this sexual function.
Your penis, its muscles and the blood flow you depend on for a proper erection are all connected in complicated ways. And, like the rest of your body, these systems — and their muscles, in particular — need to be kept in healthy shape for you to function properly.
For men — and for men’s erectile performance, in particular — the most important muscles are arguably the ones in your pelvic floor.
Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, are often misconstrued as a sexual health exercise exclusively for women. That couldn’t be further from the truth. These muscles are important for bladder and bowel function, and even for your erections.
So Kegel exercises aren’t just for women recovering from childbirth or trying to “tone things up” — they can also help you with your erectile function.
Essentially, the muscles you use to control the flow of urine, your bladder and the ones that contract during orgasm are all involved in proper erectile function. And you can work them out while sitting, standing or lying down just by contracting them.
Here are some Kegel instructions, courtesy of the Cleveland Clinic:
Get into a comfortable position.
Squeeze the pelvic muscles for five seconds, and then relax for five more seconds.
Continue this pattern for ten reps for up to three sessions per day.
That’s pretty much it for Kegels. Easy, right? And they self-regulate — if they’re painful, you’re doing them incorrectly. They’re so simple that you may question whether or not they even work. Luckily, the news is fairly good.
We’ve written more about them in our guide to Pelvic Floor Exercises for Men if you’re looking for more tips and tricks.
Does Physical Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction Work?
Studies have shown that PT works not just for erectile dysfunction, but for premature ejaculation, as well.
A 2022 review looked at 37 papers and found overwhelming evidence that PT provided a net benefit to patients with sexual dysfunction.
Studies have also shown a crucial benefit of pelvic floor muscle training: in some circumstances, they can help men perform more normally after surgeries like prostatectomies.
While those results are limited (this study, in particular, looked at exercises alongside electrical stimulation in the terminally ill), the evidence definitely warrants further study. Physical therapy has also proven beneficial for patients with multiple sclerosis and sexual dysfunction. And they may even help people with premature ejaculation, though further studies are required to figure out the optimal exercise plans.
The Cleveland Clinic specifies that, with their plan, it may take up to six weeks to notice changes, and you may have to do them indefinitely to continue to see good performance.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it may be — especially when Kegels aren’t necessarily the best thing you can do for ED.
ED treatments, delivered
No matter the treatment plan, the best place to start is somewhere.
Is PT for ED The Best Treatment Option?
The benefits of Kegels and similar forms of PT are pretty well established, but they’re hardly the end-all for the effective treatment of erectile or pelvic floor dysfunction.
There are plenty of other ways to pursue the treatment of erectile dysfunction, including medication, therapy and exercise — all of which have proven track records.
One of the most readily available and proven ways of treating ED is medication.
Prescription ED pills like sildenafil (the generic of Viagra®) or tadalafil (the generic of Cialis®) increase blood flow to your penis and relax smooth muscle tissues, which make achieving and sustaining an erection easier.
You may have to contend with some mild side effects (which you can read about in our guide to what to expect from ED medication), but millions of men every year agree that they’re well worth it.
Exercise and Lifestyle Changes
Decreasing erectile dysfunction is something you can also do with traditional physical exercise, as in the gym.
Studies show that for people with certain health conditions like high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, obesity and an inactive lifestyle, a regular exercise program several times a week can make measurable improvements to the strength and stamina of your erections.
Reducing these risk factors for heart disease, along with a healthy diet and reductions in things like nicotine and alcohol, can improve your overall health alongside your erectile health.
You might also want to consider another form of therapy: psychotherapy.
Problems with sexual activity like performance anxiety can have just as significant an impact on your sexual performance as health issues.
You can even consider online therapy platform to help you get started from the comfort of your own bed (while you do those Kegels).
Many of these options have a single thing in common: they’re best executed with the support and guidance of a healthcare professional.
Physical Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction: The Big Picture
If you want to take some initiative and improve your erectile health on your own time, at work or while watching the football game, Kegels and similar exercises may be a way to make your erections stronger.
But physical therapy is far from your only treatment option.
If you’re suffering from ED, you’re not going to get the quality of life you want without taking some bigger steps.
The first thing to do — regardless of your age, weight or pelvic rep capabilities — is talk to a professional.
They can help you further identify areas of your health that might be impacting your ability to get it up.
They can offer medications like the ones we’ve mentioned, but they can also help you learn exercises, alter your diet and identify habits that may be crushing your erectile potential.
Getting help can come in a lot of forms. Talk to someone to find the right one for you.