Today is the six month anniversary of my vasectomy and I figured it was about time I write something up about my experience to add to the incredible amount of data on this forum. Hopefully this will help someone.
Had a scalpel vasectomy on 3/29/2019 at Mass General Hospital in Boston. I needed to get extra shots of lidocaine on both sides as I could feel the incisions being made - but that was handled quickly and I really didn’t think much of it. Surgery seemed fine after that.
Recovery for the first 9 days after surgery seemed fairly normal and I was feeling good. All of that changed after ejaculating on the 9th day. For the next few days, I felt increasing discomfort in my scrotum, to the point where I went back to the urologist that performed the vasectomy. Urologist shrugged it off after a physical examination lasting a few seconds and told me to take Motrin. Pain actually subsided a little, but then a few days later I developed a surface infection at the left incision site. Took Keflex for a week and that cleared it up.
For the next month and a half (0.5 to 2 months after vas), I would have periods of increased pain lasting a couple days at a time. It would feel like tremendous pressure/aching pain in my testicle/epididymis. After a couple days it would calm down but I still wouldn’t feel normal as there was this almost constant tension-like feeling and I wasn’t able to relax. Over this time, my anxiety really spiked. There were some really scary moments. I didn’t know what was happening to me and my urologist was no help. Other than this forum, there was also seemingly nothing out there that could help me understand what I was feeling. But with the help of this forum, I got to the point where I knew I had to get my anxiety in check - which I’ll talk about more later below.
After 2 months, things started to change. The pressure/aching pain in the testicles/epididymis that I had been getting four a couple days at a time went away. That was a huge relief, but the constant tension-like feeling was still there and I started developing nerve pain. A mild-burning sensation around the scrotum, electric shock (zingers) randomly throughout the pelvic region, legs/feet, abdomen. Sounds bad, but this was actually more tolerable than the testicle pain. And I would have some days where it really wasn’t that bad at all. One weekend when I was feeling well I decided to go for a run (first time since surgery) - only a couple miles at a slow pace. I actually felt fine during the run but the next day the nerve pain really kicked up again - with the zingers happening more frequently for the next couple weeks before dying down again.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen slow and gradual improvements. Certainly not linear, there are ups and downs, but I can confidently say I am in a much better place today than I was 3-4 months ago. I’m still left with what I believe to be nerve issues - mainly a burning/stinging feeling around the sit bones, perineum, and scrotum, particularly when sitting on a hard surface. I still get occasional zingers if I do something that makes the nerves unhappy. But I’m still working on things and seeing improvements.
So what have I done?
Two months post-vasectomy I started a few things:
Diet - Started eating more fruits and vegetables, less saturated fat and processed foods - basically a Mediterranean Diet. And made sure I didn’t over eat. This helped a lot and very quickly. I’m 5’11 and I went from 175 pounds to 150 pounds in a month. My digestion improved and I felt like I had more energy. And I think this must have helped reduced inflammation.
Anxiety - started working to get my anxiety in check. This started by going to the Benson Henry Mind Body Institute - which is connected to Mass General Hospital. The founder, Herbert Benson, is known for coining the term “Relaxation Response” and was sort of a pioneer in trying to understand the mind-body connection and the harmful effects of stress. I’ve been going to regular appointments here, where we work on meditation and other strategies for trying to deal with stress better and trigger the “Relaxation Response” so that the body can heal. I’ve found it helpful to work one-on-one with someone, but these are things that anyone can do on there own. Benson’s book from the '70s, The Relaxation Response, is an easy read and a good place to start. Some of the meditation apps like Calm, also cover a lot of the same themes. It takes time and hard work, but I feel that it has helped me immensely.
I’m also starting to explore cognitive behavioral therapy and imagine that I will start seeing a therapist at some point in the future. This whole experience has had a profound impact on me, and while I’m definitely dealing with stress and anxiety better than I used to, it is something that I need to continue to work on, not only for dealing with the post-vasectomy pain, but also for the general stressors of life - i.e. work, family, etc. While my pain really isn’t that bad anymore, I still feel it every day to some extent, and it occupies my thoughts far too much even when I don’t feel anything. I believe this will get better with time, particularly if I continue to see improvements with the pain, but I’m thinking therapy could be beneficial for me as well.
I also went on an anti-depressant about 3 months ago. I’m taking 10mg of Lexapro a day. I believe this has helped as well and luckily I haven’t felt any side effects. I’m planning to stay on this for the rest of the year, as I don’t want to risk coming off just yet, but I’m hoping that in other 3 months the pain will be even better (gone?) and everything else I’ve been working on will allow me to come off of it. I’m not a big medication person and I was resistant to going on it, but right now, I feel it was the right decision for me.
Heat - I’ve been taking hot baths almost every night for the past 4 months. I feel that this helps loosen things up and improves blood flow to the pelvic area. It’s also a calming experience and fits in with all the other things I’m doing to deal with anxiety. The past few weeks I’ve also started sitting on a heating pad. Not sure why I didn’t think to try this sooner, but I think it is helping - particularly in the 1-2 days after pelvic floor physical therapy.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy - I’ve gone to six sessions so far and will definitely be continuing. It’s really the first person in a medical field that I’ve seen/talked to that has any understanding of what I’ve been going through. That alone is beneficial to me. But I’ve learned a lot through this so far and right now feel like this is the best means for me to get back to normal - perhaps with some complimentary work. My PFPT thinks that the pudendal nerve is likely the may cause of my issues. The tissues around the nerve are restricted and I have difficulty relaxing my pelvic floor. My understanding is that this could be causing the pudendal nerve to fire and also that it is restricting blood flow to the area causing the nerves to remain unhappy. Therapy sessions include both external and internal work, some of which is rather unpleasant, but I do feel like it is helping me to relax so that I don’t feel so tense in the pelvic area. The first few times I went, I actually had increased pain for a couple of days after, likely the work fired up the nerves, but then it would subside. I haven’t experienced this the past few weeks as I’ve started using the heating pad after sessions and I’m generally feeling better and better. But it is another thing that makes me realize just how integral stress and anxiety are in this whole process. I’m now able to feel that my entire pelvic area tightens up when I’m stressed and I’m working on consciously trying to relax it and drop my pelvic floor. I should also note that I have been doing pelvic floor stretches (mentioned elsewhere on this forum) to relax the area regularly for the last 4-5 months. Even early on this provided me with some short term relief. Probably should have started pelvic floor physical therapy even sooner, but my urologist, a second urologist, and my PCP all told me that it is primarily for women and that it probably wouldn’t do anything for me - yet another thing that fueled my anxiety and anger around this issue.
Exercise - I’m not able to do intense exercise still, but fairly early on I started making sure I was going on regular walks and getting at least 10,000 steps a day. Perhaps I’ll try a run again sometime soon, but I’ve been reluctant to try it again after the experience I mentioned earlier.
Yoga has been very helpful. I started off mainly going to yin yoga and restorative yoga classes - fairly gentle stuff where poses are held for long periods of time. This has been good for stretching as well as with meditation. I’ve also recently started going to some basic/gentle vinyasa classes. These are more of a workout and I’m thinking of slowly working these vinyasa classes into my routine more, as I really want to find some things to get my heart rate up again and work on strength.
Supplements - I’m currently taking Omega 3 Fish Oil (high in EPA), Nerve Shield, and Zyflamend. Hard to say if these are doing anything, but they are low risk and as long as I feel like I’m still feeling improvements I will likely continue taking them. I did try Papaya Seed Powder for awhile just to see if it would do anything. At times I do feel like my epis (particularly on the right) are really large, but I can’t say that I’ve really had much of the congestion like pain that people talk about on here. The papaya seed powder didn’t seem do anything for me, so I’m off of it now.
Underwear - I spent way to much time thinking about what underwear to wear. I tried UFM and UA boxerjocks which are both talked about on here and did feel like they were better than what I had been doing before - regular boxer briefs - but they started to give me problems over time and I went back to regular boxer briefs. Then about a month and a half ago I tried briefs and have switched to those exclusively. Not sure why it took me so long to try briefs, but I’m glad I did.
I think that covers most of what I’ve done the past six months. I’m not back to normal, but my pain is very minimal. It is still bothersome, however, because I can’t say that I’ve had a full day of not feeling anything. But it does seem to be getting weaker and weaker and I’m noticing more moments of not feeling anything. I plan to continue doing pelvic floor physical therapy and I may end up getting a pudendal nerve block at some point. My PFPT has talked to me about trying that along with seeing another urologist that knows something about pelvic pain. I’ve been reluctant to see a new urologist because the two that I have seen were worse than useless - they probably caused me to become more anxious and it seems nearly impossible to find one that admits to having any experience with this. I haven’t been to pain management yet, but I’m probably a little more willing to try that now for the nerve block since it’s clearer to me than ever before that the pudendal nerve has got to be the source of some, if not all, of my problems. I just don’t want to do anything that makes this worse since the pain isn’t that bad and I feel like I’m still seeing improvements.
Sorry for the long post - but I hope this helps someone like a lot of what I have read on here from others has helped me. And if I can answer any questions to help others, I’m happy to do so.