It might sound crazy, but some cryotherapy enthusiasts are icing their testicles to augment testosterone levels and boost fertility.
Sparse scientific literature seems to support the theory, but a 2013 study indicates that while there could be promising results, there’s not enough scientific evidence to link scrotal cooling to improved reproductive capacities.
In this article, though, we’re going to talk about icing your scrotum for a different purpose, and one with crystal-clear benefits: to reduce pain and swelling after your post-operative vasectomy.
Before getting into the details of manly icing, let’s first warm up on a few facts about vasectomy.
What is a vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure that prevents pregnancy by blocking the vas deferens, or the tubes that carry sperm cells, so that it can’t mix with semen once a man ejaculates.
About 500,000 vasectomies and 700,000 female sterilizations, otherwise known as tubal ligation, are performed in the U.S. annually. Unlike tubal ligation, vasectomies only require a local anesthesia. It is cheaper and less invasive, exposing the patient to a lower risk of infection and bleeding.
How is a vasectomy procedure done?
The procedure is fairly quick and can be done in a clinic or hospital, after which the patient can go home on the same day.
Depending on how your urologist gains access to the vas deferens, a vasectomy can be done in two ways.
In conventional vasectomy, the doctor makes small cuts in your scrotum before tying, blocking or cauterizing the vas deferens and stitching the scrotum incisions.
A less invasive procedure is called the no-scalpel vasectomy. It happens when the doctor uses a clamp to hold the tubes, making a tiny hole where each tube is lifted out to have them cut, then seared or stitched. Because there’s no scarring involved, the risks of infection and other complications are reduced.
What to expect after a vasectomy
After the procedure, the doctor will put a bandage on your scrotum. As the anesthesia dissipates, you will feel the pain slowly kick in.
You can go home in about an hour following the procedure, and it’s best to have another person drive you home to prevent unnecessary pressure on the affected area. Expect swelling and bruising down there, which could last for a few days to two weeks.
Why should you ice after a vasectomy procedure?
As most post-operative incisions cause soft tissue injuries, icing, among other methods, is effective in managing vasectomy pain and inflammation.
Since ancient times, people have turned to cold therapy to treat inflammation and injuries. Its first use is attributed to the Egyptians as early as 2,500 B.C.
A 2014 study claims that exposure to cold, meditation and proper breathing techniques can increase your body’s ability to release epinephrine (adrenaline), which improves your immune system, produces more anti-inflammatory substances and lowers inflammation response to infections.
Appropriately shaped vasectomy ice packs act as an analgesic, reducing pain by slowing down the nerve receptors from sending pain signals to your brain. As such, it cuts down the need for pain medicines. Cold therapy also reduces swelling by keeping fluids out of the affected site.
Getting some rest, applying cold compression and elevating your feet, as well as maintaining proper hygiene and wearing support undergarments, all help accelerate vasectomy recovery.
Different types of ice packs you can use
When it comes to icing, timing is essential. It is advised that you apply ice on your scrotum as soon as you get home. You may choose from any of the following methods:
- A pack of frozen peas or mixed vegetables – This is a classic among many, and we won’t judge you if you’re looking for something cheap that gets the job done. However, we’re curious to know if you’d still want to consume the vegetables after it has been stuck in a man’s private parts repeatedly.
- DIY crushed ice – To make an ice pack, put ice cubes or crushed ice in a plastic bag that seals at the top. Cover yourself with a cloth and ice away. This is easy and convenient, but crushed iced may melt even before the suggested 10 minute icing period, leaving a messy trail of water.
If you want a squishy ice gel pack, you can mix water with liquid detergent or corn syrup. While cheap, it takes a few hours before you can use these DIY ice packs, unless you’ve made plenty before you got snipped.
- Vasectomy ice packs – These are far more convenient to use than the other types because they mold perfectly along the affected site to deliver cold therapy where you need it most. Have at least two of these gel packs for convenient and uninterrupted access to cold therapy.
Gel packs are the way to go for a longer-lasting and better penetrating cooling effect. DIY ice packs do not last for long and may not be able to penetrate into the deeper tissues.
How long should you apply ice post-vasectomy?
Experts recommend applying ice to injuries as soon as possible — when it is still swollen, red and painful — and doing it for two to three days thereafter. There is no limit to how many times you can do it in a day, just be mindful not to put it on for more than the recommended period of 20 minutes.
There is perhaps only one exception to the 20-minute rule, and that’s your first application following your vasectomy. As your scrotum will be bandaged following the vasectomy procedure, cold temperature will take a longer time to reach the affected site, so wait for up to 30 minutes before removing your first ice application post-vasectomy.
Succeeding ice application sessions should not take more than 20 minutes in order to avoid the chances of getting an ice burn. Allow your tissues to warm up for 10-15 minutes before re-applying ice. Do this during waking hours or anytime according to your liking, but not when you’re about to doze off.
Remember, the goal is not to freeze the area, just keep it cooler over a few minutes, instead of very cold and uncomfortable.
The CBAN guide to ice application
When you can’t grab a timer, rely on your body’s sensations to signal you to stop icing. When you apply cold therapy, the affected site will experience four stages, namely coldness, burning, aching and numbness (CBAN).
The ice feels cold upon touching your skin. A few minutes later, the coldness turns into a slight burning sensation which then switches into an achy feeling. Eventually, the affected area will feel numb as a result of decreased nerve conduction. When you feel numb, it is time to remove the ice, no matter how long you’ve had it on.
The entire process will take from five to 10 minutes, and it helps to check the sensation frequently by lightly pressing on the affected area to see if you still feel the tenderness.
What happens if you “over-ice”?
An ice burn happens when you apply ice on your bare skin for a prolonged period. The water on the cells of your skin freezes, forming into sharp ice crystals that damage the structure of your skin cells. The reduction of blood flow and deprivation of oxygen to the affected site further aggravates the condition.
The ice burn may cause permanent skin and tissue damage.
What are the symptoms of an ice burn?
Cases of ice burn remain really low. Nevertheless, accidents do happen, and ice burns can be prevented with proper information and usage.
Leaving ice for too long on your bare skin causes ice crystals to form in the skin cells, further slowing down blood flow and later depriving your tissues of oxygen.
If you’re experiencing pain, numbness, have blisters or feel tingly, you might have ice burn.
Depending on the severity of the burn or the layer of the skin that’s affected, an ice burn may cause scarring.
How do you treat an ice burn?
To treat an ice burn, do the following:
- Immediately remove the item that caused the burn.
- Avoid touching or rubbing the area.
- Warm the skin by soaking it in heated water with an ideal temperature of 99–102 degrees Fahrenheit (37–39 degrees Celsius). Do not use a scalding hot water to treat an ice burn as it could lead to further injuries.
- Repeat the warm-water soaking process every 20 minutes, or as needed.
- Protect the affected site with a gauze that would not stick on your skin.
- Apply a soothing ointment or aloe vera gel (if the skin is intact).
Superficial ice burns do not need medical intervention. However, if the affected area turns white or gray, has blisters filled with blood and loses its function, consult with your doctor, as these could indicate tissue damage.
Icing an injury should be an instinctive skill. But don’t just ice away without being mindful of the rules, especially the 20-minute maximum application time, because cold therapy can do more harm than good if not done properly.
Do you have any questions about vasectomy ice packs and our other cool products? Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us here.