Good vibrations: the transition from a sex toy to a medical device

Good vibrations: the transition from a sex toy to a medical device

NEW ORLEANS – Official medical studies of vibrators have revealed positive effects on multiple sexual and urinary outcomes in women, according to an analysis of the published literature.

Although limited in number, the studies induced favorable changes in blood flow and muscle tone of the genital tissues, improved multiple aspects of sexual arousal and satisfaction, increased orgasmic response, and decreased sexual distress. In women with pelvic floor dysfunction, the use of vibrators has been associated with decreased urine leakage and urinary symptoms and a significant improvement in pelvic floor strength. Other studies have shown that vibrators reduce pain and improve sexual pleasure in women with vulvodynia.

“Medical service providers, especially gynecologists, urologists and FPMRS [female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery specialists] We need more education on women’s sexual and vibratory health, “said Alexandra Dubinskaya, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association. women’s sexual health. “

“In our practice, we usually tell our patients to eat healthy, exercise, get enough sleep and use a vibrator,” she added.

Vibrators should be seen as another form of technology that can be applied to the benefit of patients in clinical practice, said Rachel S. Rubin, MD, of Georgetown University in Washington.

“I think we use technology to make our lives better in almost every way … and the bedroom shouldn’t lack technology,” she said. “Sexual technology is incredible now, from what it used to be. It’s not just skinny shops with newspapers over shop windows, but wonderful state-of-the-art devices for couples of all kinds. There are so many health benefits to these devices. “

“I think if we make male partners interested in bedroom devices, everyone’s sexual health will improve,” she said. “[Dubinskaya’s] the work and the work we do in terms of the science behind it removes shame and guilt. We know that women take longer to orgasm than their male partners because the clitoris is completely internal. Teaching people basic science and physiology will make sex more fun and enjoyable and will help everyone to have a better quality of life. [QoL]. “

Therapeutic vibratory stimulation has its origins in the historical state known as female hysteria, which is associated with excessive emotions and is thought to be related to marital relationships, orgasm and pregnancy, Dubinskaya said. The first practitioners to treat this condition used manual pelvic massage to bring women to orgasm, which was thought to reduce emotionality.

“Because doctors’ hands got tired while massaging women with female hysteria, they continued to look for ways to free their hands,” she said.

The search led practitioners to hydrotherapy with pelvic showers, a flat surface fed by coal, with a rotating sphere in the middle for women to sit, and finally to the first electric hand vibrators, which were also used for to treat constipation, arthritis, muscle fatigue and “pelvic congestion”.

Over the years, the association with potential health benefits has been overshadowed by the reputation of vibrators as sex toys, supported by the use of devices in early pornographic films, Dubinskaya said. Traditionally associated with female sexual pleasure and having a phallic shape, modern vibrators have a high-tech look. Surveys conducted more than a decade ago showed that most women and more than 40% of men reported using vibrators at some point in their lives.

Dubinskaya and colleagues sought to assess the evidence supporting the medical benefits of vibrators in women. They conducted a systematic review of the literature, focusing on studies related to sexual health, pelvic floor function, and vulvar health. Out of 558 abstracts of potential interest, 21 met all inclusion criteria, consisting of 11 studies on female sexual dysfunction, nine on pelvic floor dysfunction and one on vulvodynia.

From a scientific perspective, studies of sexual dysfunction have shown that vibratory stimulation has facilitated vasodilation and blood flow, improved tissue perfusion and metabolism, decreased muscle tone and increased relaxation. Clinically, the use of vibrators has been associated with a significant improvement in the female sexual function index score (P<0.001), plus increased arousal, orgasm and genital sensation.

Patients who used vibrators reported an increase in sexual desire, satisfaction, and overall sexual function, as well as reduced time to orgasm, multiple orgasms, and reduced stress.

Studies of pelvic floor dysfunction have shown that vibrational stimulation has been associated with a significant (P<0.001) reduction of the use of sanitary pads among women with stress urinary incontinence and urine leakage, as well as a reduction in urinary symptoms. Pelvic floor muscle tone has significantly improved (P<0.001), QoL improved as assessed on several scales, as did patient satisfaction with treatment.

The unique study of vulvodynia focused on stimulating vibration to relieve pain and associated symptoms. Dubinskaya said that after 4 to 6 weeks of using the vibrator, women reported antinociceptive and desensitizing effects, reduced pain and increased sexual pleasure. Over 80% of study participants expressed satisfaction with their treatment, and 90% said they were comfortable with the fact that their doctor offered a vibrator as a form of therapy.

Enrollment began in a clinical study to identify which conditions and characteristics of sexual dysfunction benefit the most from the use of vibrators. The accumulation will continue until the end of the year, and Dubinskaya encouraged patients and clinicians to contact her for more information about the study.

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    Charles Bankhead is editor-in-chief of oncology and also covers urology, dermatology and ophthalmology. He joined MedPage Today in 2007. Follow


Dubinskaya and co-authors did not disclose any relationship with the industry.

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