Masturbation is good.
For women in particular, research has found that it helps relieve menstrual cramps, improves sleep and even decreases muscle tension. Still, it’s not something that typically comes up at the doctor’s office. And to urogynecologist Karyn Eilber, that’s because it’s part of a bigger double standard. Over the years, she’s seen physicians rehabilitate men after medical events like prostate cancer by prescribing them Viagra or Cialis to aid with erections. And so, she reasons that prescribing vibrators to women could achieve the same thing, especially for those suffering from injuries after childbirth.
She and her team wanted to see if there was a body of evidence that could support her theory, and if vibrators could one day be prescribed by doctors. “Use of a vibrator can increase pelvic blood flow in a woman, so it made sense to see if regular use of a vibrator can help conditions like pelvic pain, incontinence and overall sexual function,” Eilber tells me.
To do so, her team conducted a review of the scientific research that’s already been done on the medicinal value of vibrators and concluded that sex toys have a number of therapeutic benefits when in comes to chronic pain and improving sexual desire and function.
They started by analyzing academic papers from sites like clinicaltrials.gov, Ovid and the Cochrane and searching their databases for keywords like “sex toy woman,” “pelvic vibrator” and “sexual stimulation vibrator,” among others. From there, they found that when it came to issues related to sexual function, pelvic floor strength, incontinence and chronic pain at the vulva known as vulvodynia, a vibrator might be the best medicine. This led them to the conclusion that the use of vibrators “positively correlated with increased sexual desire, satisfaction and overall sexual function” and that “vibratory stimulation improved pelvic floor muscle strength, vulvodynia and improved incontinence.”
Or as Eilber puts it, “An important takeaway is that sexual health is just another part of our overall health and can be discussed with a health-care professional without judgment.”
While this is promising news, it’s worth noting that of the 549 papers identified, the researchers were only able to find 18 studies that met the criteria for further scientific review, an overwhelming indication that the medicinal value of vibrators remains largely understudied. “The more that research shows the medical benefits of using a vibrator, ideally the more it will be recommended by physicians and the more ‘normal’ it will be to discuss and use vibrators,” Eilber adds.
So as exciting as this is for anyone who may want to bill their insurance for a sex toy one day, the obligatory more research needs to be done caveat applies. But when I ask Eilber directly if she thinks doctors will be able to prescribe vibrators in the future, she’s optimistic. “That’s the plan,” she tells me. “Our research team has received many emails from women of all ages wanting to participate, which means there’s a lot of interest in what a vibrator can do.”
But until the day comes that you can get a prescription for a Hitachi Magic Wand, take comfort in the fact that Eilber’s study is further proof that masturbation is as integral to a healthy life as the proverbial serving of vegetables.