Tue, 14 February 2023 at 4:39 pm GMT
When you initially hear the word “vibrator,” a sex toy likely comes to mind, whether that’s one used solo or with a partner in the bedroom. But what if we told you there may be some medical benefits to using this popular pleasure tool?
Before they were viewed primarily as sex toys, vibrators were actually popular medical devices. According to Hallie Lieberman, a sex historian and author of Buzz: A Stimulating History of the Sex Toy, the electric vibrator was invented in the early 1880s by a British physician, Dr. Joseph Mortimer Granville. Although some have claimed that the early vibrator was used as a treatment for women with “hysteria,” Lieberman maintains that wasn’t its original intention. She writes that the inventor of the electric vibrator “argued specifically that it shouldn’t be used on hysterical women; rather, Dr. Granville invented the vibrator as a medical device for men, to be used on a variety of body parts, mainly to treat pain, spinal disease and deafness.”
However, times have changed. Although more research is needed, experts say there are promising benefits to vibrator use in women that go beyond pleasure.
In general, vibrators work by increasing blood flow to the erogenous zones and promoting orgasms, especially among women. But there are some medical uses for vibrators that are being explored.
Dr. Alexandra Dubinskaya, a gynecologist at Cedars-Sinai Marina del Rey Hospital, conducted a study with her colleagues, which was published in Sexual Medicine Reviews in January, that reviewed the existing literature on the medical benefits of vibrators for women in the areas of pelvic and sexual health.
“Vibrator use has a positive effect across multiple domains in the female sexual response cycle, such as a decrease in time to achieve an orgasm, facilitate multiple orgasms and improve sex-related distress,” Dubinskaya tells Yahoo Life. “Moreover, the use of vibrators leads to an improvement in urinary incontinence and pelvic floor muscle strength as well as vulvar pain.”
The study highlights that in a “randomized clinical trial among women who were unable to contract their pelvic floor muscles voluntarily, intravaginal vibratory stimulation was shown to be superior to intravaginal electrical stimulation in improving pelvic floor muscle strength.”
The research illustrated that when a vibrator was used as part of the treatment of stress urinary incontinence, it was associated with an improvement in incontinence symptoms, including decreased urinary leakage.
Dr. Monica Grover, an ob-gyn and chief medical officer at VSpot, tells Yahoo Life that vibrators (and masturbation in general) can help with premenstrual symptoms as well as painful periods. And they can also also help increase blood flow and lubrication for women who suffer from vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.
However, according to Dubinskaya, there are still some unknowns in terms of which types of vibrators are best for treating certain conditions and how long they need to be used for optimal efficacy.
“It is not fully known if the type of vibrator has an effect, as there has not been enough studies conducted,” she says. “Vibrators have various characteristics: type, speed and intensity of vibration. They also differ in application: vaginal vs. external. As more studies are conducted, the specific benefit of different design characteristics would be understood.”
Dubinskaya says that vibrators could potentially be included as part of the general treatment recommendation for pelvic floor disorders, such as stress urinary incontinence, once more research is conducted.
If you’re considering trying a vibrator as part of a treatment for a medical concern, experts say it’s best to first speak with an ob-gyn, pelvic floor therapist, urologist or urogynecologist. They can help provide more information on whether a vibrator can be helpful in addressing your health concerns.