Can masturbation help ease pelvic pain?

WORDS By Lauren Payne

Orgasming your way to pelvic comfort.

Pelvic pain, whether at the time of your period or at any other time, can be the bane of an ovary owner’s existence. Depending on its intensity, you could either spend an entire day laying on your bed in the foetal position or you might be able to take a dose of pain medication and go about your day like nothing’s happened.

Most people experience pelvic pain either in the lead-up to or during the first few days of their period. However, pelvic pain can be wildly unpredictable and so, instead of coming at a regular time of the month, such as the beginning of a period, pelvic pain may instead sneak up on you and render you bedridden halfway through a regular workday. 

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Sure, pelvic pain can be eased by taking a painkiller and resting your favourite hot water bottle on your pelvis, but have you ever thought about using masturbation? Could your favourite sex toy be the key to curing your pelvic pain? Can you orgasm your way to pelvic comfort?

In 2020, Womanizer and Lunette conducted a study to see if masturbation could help ease period pain. Over three months, 486 people recorded when and how they experienced pelvic pain and what happened when they reached for their Womanizer sex toys for relief, instead of pain medication. 

The results of the study revealed that 42 per cent of participants found that masturbation was a more effective method of controlling period pain, while 43 per cent stated they thought pain medication was more effective. 62 per cent of participants said that regularly masturbating throughout the month helped reduce the intensity of their pain somewhat, while 31 per cent said it reduced the intensity of their pain by quite a lot. 

How does it help to ease the pain?

Heba Shaheed, a pelvic floor expert at Jean Hailes for Women’s Health, says that masturbation can definitely have a positive effect on our bodies when we’re experiencing pelvic pain. However, masturbation may not be as effective for someone who experiences severe pelvic pain, or who may suffer from a chronic reproductive illness. 

“Masturbation can promote blood and lymphatic flow to the pelvic area, as well as relax tight tissues and strengthen weak tissues. Masturbation in the form of massaging the tissues of the vulva and vagina can be helpful to relax the pelvic floor muscles if this is the reason for the person’s pain. It can also be helpful in releasing brain chemicals, or ‘happy hormones’ such as dopamine, oxytocin and serotonin which can oppose pain.

“On the other hand, masturbation can also trigger some pelvic pain issues as some people may experience pain on arousal, pain on orgasm, or they may be sensitive to touch, such as in the cases of vulvodynia.”

Severe pelvic pain affects roughly one in five ovary owners and although it’s more common for people with chronic reproductive illnesses to experience severe pelvic pain, Heba says it really can affect anyone. 

“[Severe] pelvic pain is common in some chronic illnesses, for example, it is a common symptom of conditions such as endometriosis, pudendal neuralgia, interstitial cystitis (or painful bladder syndrome), pelvic inflammatory disease, [and] pelvic cancers. However, people without chronic illnesses can also experience pelvic pain, which can be related to period pain, or it can be related to musculoskeletal issues such as sacroiliac joint dysfunction, or it can be related to food intolerances. 

“Pelvic pain can also be related to pregnancy and childbirth and is a symptom of pelvic organ prolapse or pelvic floor tears. Pelvic pain is also common in people who have tight pelvic floor muscles and can also be associated with sexual pain.”

It’s not always effective

Georgia Stuart, an endometriosis advocate and sufferer who runs an educational Instagram account @theendojournal, says she currently experiences severe pelvic pain three to four times a week. “My pelvic pain fluctuates usually depending on what’s going on in my life. Stress can be a huge trigger for my pelvic pain, so if things in life are crazy, usually my pelvic pain will be more frequent. 

“[It] sounds crazy but I once sat on a plastic chair for an hour, which then resulted in a two-day pelvic pain flare! I’ve also sat on an old couch at a cafe which caused hours of pelvic pain.”

Georgia says she’s used masturbation to help ease pelvic pain before, but due to the nature of her endometriosis, it’s not always a reliable way for her to address it. “The thing with living with endometriosis is you don’t really know what’s going to happen. Each day is different. Sometimes masturbation can help with pelvic pain, other times it can definitely make it worse! 

“I think it’s also important to mention that sometimes even orgasming can be painful, so it really is a bit of Russian roulette… I think it also depends on where I am in my cycle and what’s going on in my life. [And] if I’ve been looking after myself and keeping up with my treatment plans…”

Georgia says when masturbation isn’t an option for her, she relies on Pilates and moving her body to help reduce the severity of her pelvic pain. “Stretching is a huge relief for me! If I can ensure I’m stretching regularly that helps me a lot. If I can afford it, I also get acupuncture, massages, topical magnesium spray and take my prescription medicinal cannabis oil.”

Heba also recommends anyone experiencing severe pelvic pain to investigate other at home treatment options if masturbation doesn’t work for you (this is, of course, in addition to seeing your GP to try find out the root cause).

“There are various treatment options that you can do at home such as hot packs, TENS machines, gentle stretches or exercise, self-massage and medications. Ultimately, someone with severe pelvic pain would benefit from pelvic physiotherapy to address [any] underlying issues.”

So, if you’ve found yourself holding your ovaries as they spasm and cause you pain, why not try masturbation? Your favourite sex toy could possibly become your saving grace when a bout of pelvic pain begins. 

This method won’t be ideal for everyone and if you do experience any pain either during sex, or during an orgasm, please seek medical assistance, as there could be more going on in your body.

For more on the benefits of masturbation, try this.

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