Guest blogger Dr. Jeannette Potts, of Vista Urology and Pelvic Pain Partners, has a great deal of experience treating male pelvic pain. In this post, she sheds some light on sexual dysfunction associated with male pelvic pain.
The continued misuse of the generic diagnosis, “prostatitis,” remains a disservice to the vast majority of patients suffering from pelvic and genital pain frequently associated with lower urinary tract symptoms and sexual dysfunction. Growing evidence over the past two decades shows that fewer than 10% of patients have an infectious cause for their symptoms and that end-organ or prostatocentric approaches are inadequate. Meanwhile, more comprehensive care, emphasizing biopsychosocial and neuromuscular components of pain, have been shown to be more beneficial for men suffering with UCPPS. And indeed, the NIH-NIDDK conference of 1996 recognized the fact that the condition may not be a malady of the prostate to begin with!
Unfortunately, when UCPPS is associated with sexual dysfunction, i.e. painful ejaculation or post coital discomfort, patients are more likely to be diagnosed with prostatitis and, therefore, even more likely to endure weeks of unnecessary antibiotic therapy.
Sexual dysfunction in this setting can be manifest in many ways: Dysorgasmia (painful ejaculation), post ejaculatory or post coital aching or pain, painful arousal, and decreases in erectile function and libido secondary to the pain, fear and anxiety.
(It is important to reassure men about these secondary effects, as many believe they have a separate terrible disease.)
During my career, I’ve developed a theory regarding dysorgasmia and postcoital discomfort, within the context of pelvic neuromuscular floor dysfunction and myofascial trigger points. In patients suffering from these sexual symptoms, the pleasurable sensations and “spasms” of orgasm evolve into painful contractions and abnormal tightening of the pelvic floor. This is worsened and perpetuated by the anticipation of yet another unpleasurable or painful climax. (Imagine trying to enjoy sex while fearing the approach of orgasm as pain rather than rapture.)
As I first hypothesized about the neuromuscular influence on this condition, I made another observation: Many men with the condition also described a marked decrease or absence of semen during ejaculation, or, in some, a delayed dripping of the ejaculate. This certainly exacerbated their anxiety as many men justifiably wondered what was happening to the fluid and was it “backing up” into their already allegedly inflamed sex organs. But of course this was not the case.
Yet another clue emerged. And as any sensitive healthcare provider knows, our continuing medical education comes by way of our own patients as much as by a conference, these clues came from unrelated patients.
Several men in my practice practice martial arts and Taoism. To preserve their Chi (energy), they do not ejaculate during sex or climax. They’ve trained themselves to contract the pelvic floor muscles, thereby causing an intentional form of retrograde ejaculation. By squeezing the muscles that tighten the external sphincter muscle, just distal (just beyond the end of the prostate), the ejaculation entering the prostatic urethra no longer travels frontwards and out the tip of the penis. The path of least resistance is no longer outward, as the tightened sphincter now provokes the flow of semen backward and into the urinary bladder. This causes no physical harm and is excreted with the urine during urination. Men who try to do this intentionally require practice and many have experienced significant pain.
It now made sense to me that UCPPS patients with dysorgasmia were involuntarily performing similar techniques practiced by those persons intentionally trying to withhold their ejaculation. This, I’ve termed ejaculatory dyssynergia.
Although this remains just a theory, I am encouraged by yet another piece of the puzzle. As the symptoms of UCPPS in men improve and resolve through specialized pelvic floor PT and manual trigger point release, many patients describe as secondary improvements, increasing pleasure with sex and orgasm, as well as increase in the volume and force of ejaculation.
I believe that ejaculatory dyssynergia helps to better conceptualize this phenomenon as one of the most stressful and debilitating facets of UCPPS. This is especially true among those patients in whom we also observe dysfunctional defecation (tenesmus, puborectalis syndrome, etc) and those whose LUTS may be derived from similar acquired habits such as pseudo-DSD (Detrusor-sphincter-dyssynergia).
Jeannette M. Potts, MD
Vista Urology and Pelvic Pain Partners
During her 15 year tenure at the Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological Institute Dr. Jeannette Potts developed her signature biopsychosocial approach to Urological Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndromes (UCPPS).
She is the editor of three urological textbooks, published by Humana and Springer Press as well as author of the book, Tango: Lesson for Life, published by Cleveland Clinic Press. (www.doctortango.net)
She has been a passionate collaborator with the NIH and the IPCN, to advance research and care of patients suffering from UCPPS. She was co-investigator for the NIH clinical trial showing the benefits of specialized physical therapy for patients with UCPPS.
She has published numerous articles in urology and family medicine and has given over 100 lectures on UCPPS and related topics, as an invited speaker at medical and urological conferences worldwide. She has invited back to direct her course on UCPPS at the AUA.
I miss my long walks. Walking definitely seems to be making me flare. I have a desk job and the sitting makes me hurt too. All i want to do when I get home is sit my but on a heating pad and take medicine. Where do I begin to stop this pattern. Feel like a big blob and so tired.
Are you unable to come see us in person? We offer virtual physical therapy appointments too!
Due to COVID-19, we understand people may prefer to utilize our services from their homes. We also understand that many people do not have access to pelvic floor physical therapy and we are here to help! The Pelvic Health and Rehabilitation Center is a multi-city company of highly trained and specialized pelvic floor physical therapists committed to helping people optimize their pelvic health and eliminate pelvic pain and dysfunction. We are here for you and ready to help, whether it is in-person or online.
Virtual sessions are available with PHRC pelvic floor physical therapists via our video platform, Zoom, or via phone. The cost for this service is $75.00 per 30 minutes. For more information and to schedule, please visit our digital healthcare page.
In addition to virtual consultation with our physical therapists, we also offer integrative health services with Jandra Mueller, DPT, MS. Jandra is a pelvic floor physical therapist who also has her Master’s degree in Integrative Health and Nutrition. She offers services such as hormone testing via the DUTCH test, comprehensive stool testing for gastrointestinal health concerns, and integrative health coaching and meal planning. For more information about her services and to schedule, please visit our Integrative Health website page.