All About Testicles

tennis ball isolated

By Fiona McMahon, PT, DPT

Testicles have long held a special place in our society.  In fact, the word testis means “witness of virility” in Latin. They help produce the hormones that spark puberty. They are responsible for body hair, the growth of the penis, and sex drive.

Testicles are gonads. Gonads are sex organs that produce sex cells.  People with male anatomy produce sperm and  people with female anatomy produce ova (eggs). Testicles also produce the hormone testosterone, which as stated earlier is responsible for people with male anatomy’s secondary sex characteristics, like body hair, muscle bulk, and sex drive.

Testicles are housed in the scrotum, a sack of skin just behind the penis. Within the scrotum, the testicles are covered by a fibrous sheath called the tunica vaginalis and tunica albuginea. The testicles are composed of many tightly bound tubules called the seminiferous tubules. These tubules give the testicles their uneven feel. Each testicle is held in the scrotum by the spermatic cord, which is composed of the vas deferens, blood vessels, and lymph vessels.

Anyone who has watched an Adam Sandler movie knows that testicles are delicate and sensitive creatures. Even just a jostle can be enough to double one over in pain. But sometimes your testicles may hurt for no apparent reason.  Acute scrotum is the technical name given to sudden onset testicular pain without swelling. There are many medical reasons your testicles may hurt.  Testicular pain can be a serious condition and should not be ignored.

Testicular torsion is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment in order to save the testicle.  Testicular torsion is most common in people with male anatomy under the age of 25. It occurs when the spermatic cord twists cutting off blood supply to the testes. Usually testicular torsion is spontaneous and cause pain great enough to wake a one out of sleep and induce vomiting.

In some people testicular torsion is contributed to by what is known as a bell clapper deformity. A bell clapper deformity occurs when there is a lack of fixation in the tunica vaginalis. Because of this lack of fixation, the testis is free to rotate around on itself and obstruct blood flow. Bell clapper deformities are present in 12% of males and in males with bell clapper deformity 40% have bilateral derformity. In neonates, extravaginal torsion can occur when the tunica vaginalis and the testes both twist in the inguinal canal. Any case of sudden and severe testicular pain should be considered testicular torsion until proven otherwise and treated as a medical emergency.

Testicular cancer is usually painless but in 20% of cases pain can be a symptom. The pain caused by testicular cancer is typically due to hemorrhage. In the overall population testicular cancer is relatively rare, however it is the most common form of cancer in young males between the ages of 15 and 35. Signs of testicular cancer include a dull ache in the abdomen and groin, heaviness in the scrotum, lump in the testicle, enlargement of the breast tissue, or back pain. Any of these symptoms warrant a visit to your general practitioner.

So what about testicular pain that is not cancer or testicular torsion? Testicular pain can also be caused by other medical conditions like epididymitis, orchitis, urinary reflux, urinary tract infection, or sexually transmitted infection. Again as stated before, any acute testicular pain that occurs out of the blue warrants immediate medical attention.

There are some people however who suffer from acute and recurrent testicular pain for which a medical cause has not been established. For these people, not having concrete answers for what is going on can be especially distressing. In a paper by Anderson and colleagues, trigger points elsewhere in the body have been found to cause pain in the testicles, shaft of the penis, and other areas in the genital region.

Trigger points are defined as areas of hypersensitive and painful spots within the muscle that can be felt as a tough or tight band. In their study, Anderson and colleagues found that testicular pain could be elicited in 80% of men with testicular pain with no other medical cause, when trigger points in the external obliques were palpated. The study also found other trigger points referring to the shaft of the penis, and the perineum (the bicycle seat area of the body). Myofascial restrictions can refer pain to testicles as well as reduce blood flow to the genitals, making erections difficult or painful.

Irritated nerves can also be the cause of testicular and penile pain. The pudendal nerve is most commonly associated with male pelvic pain. The pudendal nerve supplies sensation to many of the pelvic structures including the penis, scrotum, and anorecatal region. This nerve can become inflamed or strained for a variety of different reasons. Straining with constipation, boney alignment that stresses the nerve, as well as tight ligaments and muscles that surround the area can all stress the pudendal nerve and cause scrotal, anal, or penile pain.

Other nerves such as the Iliohypogastric can cause suprapubic and gluteal pain. The inguinal nerve can cause pain in the inner thigh, and lateral scrotal skin. The genital femoral is also associated with the skin of the scrotum and thigh.

If you find yourself with testicular or penile pain that has not been resolved with medical intervention, it may be time to find your way to a licensed pelvic floor physical therapist. Physical therapists can work with you to break up your trigger points, provide postural education to correct alignment, reduce constipation with bowel training, and incorporate relaxation and postural changes to prevent your pain from coming back. At Beyond Basics, we have a great team of therapists who treat pelvic floor disorders who can help treat your testicular pain.

Sources:
Anatomy and physiology of the testicle. Canadian Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/testicular/anatomy-and-physiology/?region=on. Accessed June 10, 2015
Anderson R, Sawyer T, Wise D, Morey A. Painful myofascial trigger points and pain sites in men with chronic prostatitis/ chronic pelvis pain syndrome. The Journal of Urology, 182;6 2753-58
Jefferies M, Cox A, Gupta A et al. The management of acute testicular pain in children and adolescents. BMJ. 2015
Mayo Clinic Staff. Testicle Pain. Accessed June 8, 2015. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/testicle-pain/basics/causes/sym-20050942
Mayo Clinic Staff. Testicular Cancer. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/testicular-cancer/basics/definition/con-20043068. Accessed June 10, 2015

Do You Speak Pelvic Floor? Guide to Antatomy Part 2: Male Genital Anatomy

woman wearing white high top shoes
Photo by Du01b0u01a1ng Nhu00e2n on Pexels.com

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT (Pronouns: She, Her, Hers)

Hello again and welcome to part two of the “Do you Speak Pelvic Floor Series”. In the first part, we described the most common clinical language we use to describe the genitalia of those with female anatomy. In part two we will look a little more closely at the male anatomy. The male anatomy goes beyond the ‘ol twig and berries and there are specific names for the specific parts. Many folks, when they think of about pelvic floor physical therapy, think of it only as a women’s specialty. Beyond Basics Physical Therapy has been treating male pelvic disorders since 2003! In this blog, we will discuss the structures of the male external genitalia as well as some of the conditions that can affect this anatomy. Let’s read on!

Penis– The penis is one of the male sex organs and it has some pretty cool capabilities. The penis has individual compartments in it called the corpus cavernosus which fills with blood to keep the penis hard during erection. The corpus spongiousus helps to keep the urethra from collapsing upon itself during erection. We can see many issues concerning the pelvic floor muscles, surrounding tissues, and nerves that can affect the penis. Peyronies disease occurs when the penis bends, which can be uncomfortable and painful. We have a whole blog which takes a deep dive into the causes of Peyronie’s as well as treatments. You can read more about it here.

Glans- The glans is also known as the head of the penis. The glans is highly sensitive and provides a good deal of sexual sensation during sexual activities. The glans resembles an acorn. The word glans actually means acorn in Latin. The glans is often a place that will be painful with pelvic floor dysfunction. Tight and restricted muscles of the pelvic floor often refer to this area.

Foreskin- Foreskin is a really interesting structure, (stay with me, folks). Foreskin has cultural and religious importance. Many Abrahamic religions, (Jews, Muslims, and some but not all Christians) may practice circumcision as part of their faith tradition. Whether or not someone has had a circumcision is also linked to where someone lives. In the USA circumcision is extremely common, however in many countries across the pond in Europe, circumcision is much less commonly practiced. Whether or not to circumcise is a deeply personal choice that can be affected by your religion and your nationality. There are trade-offs to being circumcised and being uncircumcised and many doctors recommend that the decision is made by the family of the child.

Urethra- The urethra transports semen and urine to the outside world. Did you know that when the penis is fully erect, only semen can travel through the urethra? This prevents urination during intercourse. Men with poor pelvic floor function may experience leakage secondary to poor closure of the urinary tract into the urethra.

Testes- I have a blog all about testicles. In fact, that’s what it is called, All About Testicles. You can read about it here. Testicles create sperm. Did you know problems with muscles and nerve irritation can cause pain in the testicles, as well other serious and non-serious conditions? Read more about testicular conditions in the blog I linked above..

Scrotum- The scrotum is the sack that contains the testicles. The skin on the scrotum can get tight and restricted and sometimes cause pain in the scrotum and penis. Skilled physical therapists can teach you how to gently mobilize this tissue to treat your pain.

 

If you are having pain in any one of these areas, physical therapy may help.

Give us a call at 212-354-2622 to schedule a free consult for those living in the Tri-State Area to find out if PT is right for you.

Fiona McMahon PT, DPT practices at our Midtown Location

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Fancy Pants

By Mary Hughes

We all know Victoria’s Secret has always supported and lifted our “girls,” but who knew that there is a company out there to support and lift the “fellas”?  Enter Frigo RevolutionWear AKA “Tempur-Pedic Banana Hammocks.”

We just discovered an article in Market Watch reveals “the key to the product is an interior mesh pouch that separates a man’s “package,” as Matthew Butlein, president of underwear retailer Freshpair.com, delicately puts it. (Freshpair is the exclusive online source for the $100 pair.) Not only does that help prevent sweating — by virtue of avoiding “skin on skin,” says Butlein — it also offers more support. (And its adjustable support, too — there’s an elastic band that controls the degree of lift and separation.)”

What do you think, dear readers? Would you try it? Let us know in the comments!