Erectile Dysfunction: There’s Help For That

Dr. Danielle Backes, PT

September 2, 2020

Erectile Dysfunction: There’s Help For ThatPelvic floor physical therapy isn’t just for women, men have pelvises too! One of the diagnoses that men can suffer from is erectile dysfunction. While there are many treatment options for this, pelvic floor physical therapy can be indicated to help with this diagnosis. Another treatment option that your doctor might recommend is a vasoconstriction device (VCD), or more commonly known as a penis pump.

But how exactly does this pump work and is it safe to use? We are here to answer all your questions about using one of these devices!

Let’s start by talking about the anatomy of the penis and the anatomy of an erection. The penis contains 3 columns of tissue. There are 2 tubes called the corpus cavernosum that fill with blood during an erection. The third tube, called the corpus spongiosum, contains the urethra to conduct urine out of the body. During an erection, there is an increase in blood flow into the columns that then gets trapped due to the high pressures. The arteries open up to allow blood into the corpus cavernosum and the pressure compresses the veins, trapping the blood to form an erect penis. When the penis is not erect, there are low levels of oxygen/blood flow to the erectile tissue.

Erectile Dysfunction: There’s Help For That

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability to get and maintain an erection. Your doctor might recommend medication to help with this, and may also recommend using a VCD. When there is not adequate blood flow to the penis, it can cause tissue loss. What that means is that if you aren’t getting adequate blood flow to the penis (with an erection), then it can cause decreased ability for the columns to swell, or shrinkage. Basically, if you don’t use it, there is the potential to lose it! This is why your body naturally produces about 2-6 erections at night in order to keep the tissue healthy. If nocturnal erections are not happening, a VCD device may be indicated to use on a daily basis for part of your therapy treatment.

A VCD is intended to be used to help obtain and sustain a penile erection by creating a vacuum that pulls blood to the chambers of the penis. This can be helpful for men who do not have adequate blood flow to the penis or have damage to the nerves that control the erection reflex. This can be used daily for exercise to encourage proper mobility of the erectile tissues, or it can be used just prior to, or during sexual activity.

There are many benefits of using a VCD. It can be combined with other treatment options. It’s safe, effective, noninvasive, and can be a cheaper treatment option compared to long-term medications. Although VCDs are usually safe for most men, talk to your doctor about which one might be right for you before purchasing one.



“Hypoxemia (Low Blood Oxygen).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 1 Dec. 2018,

Padmanabhan, P. and McCullough, A.R. (2007), Penile Oxygen Saturation in the Flaccid and Erect Penis in Men With and Without Erectile Dysfunction. Journal of Andrology, 28: 223-228. doi:10.2164/jandrol.106.001313

Gratzke C, Angulo J, Chitaley K, et al. Anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology of erectile dysfunction. Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2010;7(1, Pt 2):445-475. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01624.x.

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Penis Pump.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 Dec. 2017,


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