Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/11/2021
A pinched nerve, or radiculopathy, is a common problem that can occur due to injury, repeated use of your hands or other body parts, or as a result of a medical condition such as diabetes or arthritis.
While most people associate a pinched nerve with symptoms like pain, numbness and muscle weakness, it’s possible that a pinched nerve may also affect your sexual performance.
Getting an erection requires a combination of arousal, blood flow and proper nerve function. If you have a pinched nerve, you may find it difficult to get and maintain an erection, even if you feel sexually aroused.
Pinched nerves often get better on their own. When they don’t, several treatment options are available to improve both your nerve function and your ability to get an erection.
Below, we’ve explained how a pinched nerve can affect your erectile health, as well as other symptoms you may experience if you have a pinched nerve.
We’ve also talked about the treatment options that are available if you have a pinched nerve that’s affecting your ability to have a satisfying, fulfilling sex life.
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common issue that affects approximately 30 million men in the United States.
Damage to the nerves in your spinal cord may make it more difficult for you to develop and maintain erection.
Pinched nerves can develop as a result of injuries, degenerative changes that occur in your spine as you age, as well as certain diseases or medical conditions.
A pinched nerve often improves on its own. However, while it’s healing, you may need to rest and use medication and physical therapy to treat the affected area.
If you have a pinched nerve, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to find out the most effective treatment options for you.
The term “pinched nerve” refers to an injury that can occur when one or several of your nerves are compressed, stretched or constricted.
Medically, a pinched nerve is referred to as radiculopathy. This type of injury usually occurs in your lower back, but it can also occur in other parts of your back and neck due to the complex network of nerve roots that branch off from your spinal cord.
When a pinched nerve occurs in your lower back, the pain and other symptoms it can cause are often referred to as sciatica.
A variety of factors can contribute to pinched nerves. Injuries to your spine, such as a herniated disk, can press on your nerves.
Other causes include aging-related changes to your spine and conditions that damage your nerves, such as obesity, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
The precise symptoms of a pinched nerve can vary depending on where the injury occurs. Most pinched nerves cause one or several of the following symptoms:
Sharp pain in the affected part of your body and surrounding areas, such as your lower back and legs or your neck, shoulders and arms
Numbness in the affected area
A tingling, pins-and-needles feeling
Muscular weakness in the affected area
Nerve damage is a common cause of erectile dysfunction. If you have an injury to your spinal cord that causes a pinched nerve, it may also make it more difficult or impossible for you to get and maintain an erection.
It’s important to understand that ED can vary in severity. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, you may have ED if you:
Can occasionally get an erection, but not every time you want to have sex
Can get an erection, but can’t maintain it for long enough for fulfilling, satisfactory sex
Can’t get an erection at any time
We discuss more in our blog on erectile dysfunction nerve damage symptoms.
If you think you may have a pinched nerve, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider as soon as you can.
To diagnose a pinched nerve, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam. You may need to complete some tests to check for any loss of sensation, weakness or changes to your reflexes in the affected area.
For a more accurate diagnosis, your healthcare provider may ask you to undergo an X-ray, CT scan, MRI scan or electromyography (EMG). These tests are used to determine the cause of your pinched nerve and choose the most effective treatment.
Most of the time, a pinched nerve will get better on its own. Your symptoms may improve over the course of a few days, weeks or several months.
Your healthcare provider will usually recommend resting the affected area. You may need to take it easy for a few weeks and avoid exercise, movement or other activities that could harm the nerves and worsen your symptoms.
To improve the healing process, your healthcare provider may provide a supportive device for you to wear during recovery. You may need to do physical therapy exercises to relieve pain, improve the joint’s range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the affected nerve.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to make dealing with pain and discomfort easier, such as oral corticosteroids or pain relief medications like ibuprofen or aspirin.
If your pinched nerve doesn’t improve with medication and physical therapy, you may need to undergo surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve and treat the underlying issue.
If your erectile dysfunction is caused by a pinched nerve, you may notice improvements in your ability to get an erection as the issue that’s putting pressure on your nerve heals.
If you have persistent erectile dysfunction that doesn’t improve on its own, you may be able to improve your sexual performance with medication. Common medications for ED include:
Sildenafil. The active ingredient in Viagra®, sildenafil (generic Viagra) provides relief from ED for around four hours per dose.
Tadalafil. The active ingredient in Cialis®, tadalafil is a long-lasting medication that can provide relief from ED for up to 36 hours per dose.
Vardenafil. The active ingredient in Levitra®, vardenafil provides relief from ED for a similar period of time to sildenafil.
Avanafil. Available as Stendra®, avanafil is a newer ED medication that works quickly and is less likely to cause certain side effects.
We offer FDA-approved ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.
If you have a pinched nerve, you may notice a range of symptoms, including pain, discomfort and numbness in the affected part of your body.
When this affects the nerves around your penis, it may lead to erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance issues.
If you think you have a pinched nerve, talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend medication, physical therapy or other options to treat your symptoms, as well as medication to treat ED and improve your sexual function.