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Does a vasectomy hurt?

The idea of vasectomy may cause a reflexive wince. But how painful is getting a vasectomy? Although no surgical procedure is completely pain-free, fear of pain shouldn’t hold you back from getting a vasectomy. Let’s take a look at what science says about pain after vasectomy.

Key takeaways

  • Vasectomies are performed with local anesthesia (numbing). You should feel little to no pain during the procedure itself.
  • You may experience discomfort or swelling after a vasectomy that can be managed with acetaminophen and ice packs. Discomfort usually subsides within days.
  • In very rare cases, vasectomy can result in long-term pain, called post-vasectomy pain syndrome (PVPS).

Pain during the vasectomy procedure

A vasectomy is a quick procedure — lasting about 20 minutes — that’s usually performed in a healthcare provider’s office under local anesthesia.

During a vasectomy, a healthcare provider opens the scrotum and severs the vas deferens (the tubes behind each testicle, one on each side). The ends are then sealed with stitches or cauterized. This prevents sperm, which are produced in the testicles, from mixing with semen and being ejaculated.

Learn more about how a vasectomy works.

In the past few decades, the “traditional” vasectomy (also known as the “scalpel” method, which involves making small incisions in the scrotum with a surgical scalpel) has largely been replaced by the “no-scalpel method.” In a no-scalpel procedure, a healthcare provider will punch a small hole in the scrotum and gently stretch the skin to access the vas deferens.

Anesthesia during vasectomy

A vasectomy does not require general anesthesia. In other words, you’re not “put to sleep.” The anesthesia used during vasectomy is local anesthesia, that only numbs the area the doctor is working on — in this case, the scrotum.

In both traditional and no-scalpel vasectomy, lidocaine is commonly used as an anesthetic to prevent pain. Lidocaine may be delivered via injection or with a high-pressure jet spray instrument. When the latter is used before a no-scalpel procedure, it may be called a “no-needle, no-scalpel” vasectomy.

When the anesthetic is administered, you may feel a slight pinch. Then, the area will numb within a few seconds.

According to Stephanie Sabourin, Legacy’s Director of Clinical Services and an andrology-certified nurse, that should be the only pain you feel during the procedure. Sabourin has assisted in thousands of vasectomies. “You may feel tugging or pulling during the procedure,” she reports. “If you do feel pain, don’t just grin and bear it — ask your healthcare provider if you can have more pain medication,” she advises. 

According to a 2014 review of research, 36% of patients report feeling discomfort during a vasectomy. Those numbers are slightly higher for traditional vasectomy patients (40%) than no-scalpel vasectomy patients (33%).1

One more important note about pain during vasectomy: the procedure is very quick, typically taking around 15–25 minutes. So even if you feel a bit of discomfort, it will be over very soon.

Pain during vasectomy recovery

Whether you have a traditional vasectomy or a no-scalpel vasectomy, you are likely to feel discomfort after the procedure. This is a normal bodily response as a result of inflammation from the procedure.

In most cases, post-vasectomy pain is minor and temporary. It can feel like a dull ache in the surgical area or testicle itself. How long until no pain after a vasectomy? Overall, 95% percent of vasectomy patients report they’re pain-free within two weeks of the procedure.2

Does it hurt to pee after a vasectomy? You should be able to urinate without trouble, but you may feel some discomfort that fades after a few days.

Does it hurt to get hard after a vasectomy? Does ejaculating after a vasectomy hurt? In the beginning, it might be uncomfortable to get an erection, masturbate, have sex, or ejaculate. Don’t freak out — this is a normal, temporary response. (Remember that you shouldn’t ejaculate for at least a week after your vasectomy to allow things to heal.)

Long-term pain after vasectomy: Post-vasectomy pain syndrome

In very rare cases, a vasectomy can result in long-term pain, called post-vasectomy pain syndrome or PVPS. Defined as constant or intermittent testicular pain for more than three months, PVPS occurs in roughly 1% of all vasectomies.3 

With PVPS, pain may develop immediately after the procedure and continue, or arise months afterward. You may have a dull, constant ache in your testicles, or the pain may be intermittent. Some men with PVPS have pain during exercise, erection, or ejaculation.

The condition may be caused by damage to the spermatic cord, nerve compression resulting from inflammation, or pressure from congestion in the epididymis (the tightly coiled tubes in back of the testicles where young sperm cells mature).

PVPS is treatable by nonsurgical and surgical methods, including vasectomy reversal.

Tips to reduce pain after vasectomy recovery

Can you avoid all vasectomy side effects? Probably not, but there are steps you can take to reduce pain after your vasectomy.

  • Take it easy. Go total couch potato mode for 1–2 days. After that, you can resume light activity like walking and cooking. “Listen to your body and don’t push yourself too hard,” Sabourin advises.
  • Tylenol and ice. For vasectomy pain relief, most experts advise taking acetaminophen (brand name Tylenol) and applying ice packs to the area regularly throughout the day. Taking ibuprofen (brand name Advil) is not advised; it can thin the blood and increase the chances of bruising. Sabourin’s pro tip: Use a bag of frozen peas as an ice pack; the peas mold to the shape of the body. One thing you don’t want to do after a vasectomy? Use a heating pad on your groin — Steph says that can also cause bruising.
  • Don’t ejaculate for at least 1 week. “Otherwise you’ll blow through all that fine work your surgeon just did,” Sabourin says. After this healing period, you can get back to regular masturbation or sex with back-up birth control (until you’ve gotten the all-clear with a semen analysis).
  • Wear supportive underwear. Tight briefs or even a jockstrap can help reduce movement in your scrotum and testicles, causing less pain and helping you heal faster. Steph recommends supportive underwear for 4–7 days or more.

Other tips for a successful vasectomy

Here’s your checklist for a successful vasectomy:

  • Freeze your sperm before your vasectomy. Just in case you change your mind about having children in the future (it happens). This is a more effective and affordable backup plan than vasectomy reversal, which doesn’t always work.
  • Plan to be out of work for one to two days after your vasectomy, or more if your job is very physically demanding.
  • Get a semen analysis 90 days — at least 30 ejaculations — after the procedure to ensure that no sperm remains in your semen.

Resources

  1. 1. Cook et al, 2014. “Scalpel versus no‐scalpel incision for vasectomy.”
  2. 2. Sokal et al, 1999. “A comparative study of the no scalpel and standard incision approaches to vasectomy in 5 countries.
  3. 3. Sinha et al, 2017. “Post-vasectomy pain syndrome: diagnosis, management and treatment options.”

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