Cycling is an excellent way to stay healthy, exercising muscles and providing aerobic benefits at the same time, as well as giving a person opportunity to enjoy fresh air and (hopefully) sunshine when riding outdoors. But as many men know, there can be some penis health issues associated with cycling. This is especially true for the enthusiast who engages in lengthy, long-distance excursions. But a new study suggests a way to help mitigate the issues that sometimes occur.
Probably the most significant male problems associated with cycling are a numbness in the penis and erectile dysfunction. Not every man experiences either of these issues, and indeed there is wide variation in the reported incidences. According to one 2014 retrospective study, the percentage of male cyclists experiencing numbness varies from a low of 22% to a high of 91%. In terms of erectile dysfunction, the rate varies from 1.8% to 50%.
While the rate of incidence is not known, it is generally conceded that some male cyclists experience these penis problems. The reasoning behind it is that these problems result from the pressure exerted on the perineum (the area between the balls and the anus) due to be seated on saddle seats for an extended period of time. Both the weight of the upper torso on the perineum and the vibrations caused by cycling are thought to cause pressure which results in "micro-traumas" to the penis and perineum, bringing about the numbness and dysfunction. It is also believed that the shape and hardness of the selected saddle may play a significant role.
Entitled "Effect of Oscillation on Perineal Pressure in Cyclists: Implications for Micro-Trauma," the article recently appeared in the medical journal Sexual Medicine. It was conducted by a team of urologists from the University of California at San Francisco. In this instance, oscillation basically refers to the rate of vibration that occurs when cycling.
The scientists looked at how different rates of oscillation might have an effect on the pressure that a person feels on the perineum as they are biking. They selected 39 subjects - 29 men and 10 women - for the study. (Women were included as perineal numbness is also an issue with female cyclists.) All were tested on the same style and make of bicycle, adjusted to properly fit the size of each study participant. There were tested both while stationary (no pedaling) and while pedaling, and both with a standard seatpost and with a special seatpost with greater suspension.
From the experiment, the doctors determined that the pressure on the perineum increased significantly when the rate of oscillation also increased. They also found that when the seatpost with suspension was utilized, the impact of oscillation decreased by 53%.
What it means
In other words, the more vibration that occurs when riding a bike, the more pressure there is on the perineum, and the more likely that micro-trauma will occur, which can bring about penis problems in some men. But if bikes could effectively be outfitted with shock absorbers (which is what the seatposts with suspension provided), there would likely be a decrease in oscillation and therefore in pressure and subsequent damage.
Until bicycles come outfitted with proper shock absorbers, cyclists are more likely to experience penis problems. Regular use of a high level penis health creme (health professionals recommend Man 1 Man Oil, which is clinically proven mild and safe for skin) may be beneficial. Since penis sensation can be impacted, the crème should include a neuroprotective ingredient like L-carnitine; this will not prevent the impact of the pressure, but it could potentially minimize it. The creme should also include L-arginine, an amino acid which plays a role in helping to keep penile blood vessels receptive to increased blood flow, a vital function in penis health.