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Can a Pinched Nerve Cause ED?

Kristin Hall, FNP

Reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Nicholas Gibson

Published 03/10/2021

Updated 09/28/2023

Pinched nerves can affect your quality of life. They cause a lot of pain and could lead to paralysis in severe cases. But can they affect your sex life? Maybe.

While a little lower back pain might be something you incorrectly self-diagnose as a nerve injury, there’s a serious side to pinched nerves. Herniated discs and severe cases of nerve injury can cause incontinence and bladder control issues, loss of feeling and loss of function in many parts of your body.

Have you found it harder to get or stay erect since the injury that brought on the low back pain? Upon Googling chiropractic and physical therapist services, you may have stumbled upon information suggesting the two are connected.

Can a pinched nerve cause ED (erectile dysfunction)?

Below, we’ll explain what actually constitutes a pinched nerve, why it might result in sexual dysfunction for some people and how to deal with nerve and penile problems if you’re injured.

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Your gym buddy who complains about his pinched nerve may very well be a crybaby. But if he has a diagnosed nerve injury, odds are, it’s causing him lots of problems.

A pinched nerve (also called a radiculopathy) can occur due to injury, repetitive strain or medical conditions like obesity, diabetes or arthritis. Tumors may also compress or constrict nerves.

The term “pinched nerve” refers to how the injury tends to happen. One or several nerves become compressed, stretched or constricted, leading to damage.

Pinched nerves usually happen in the lower back, where they may result from disc herniation. A herniated disc is an injury to the sciatic nerve or parts of the lumbar spine, like the L4-L5 and L5-S1 segments. If you have a pinched nerve in the lower back, the pain is often referred to as sciatica.

Wherever they happen, pinched nerves are a result of unexpected harm to the complex network of nerve roots that begin at the spinal cord. 

It’s a fairly common injury, though the precise symptoms often vary depending on the location of the injury.

Some of the more common symptoms of pinched nerves include:

  • Sharp pain in the affected and surrounding areas

  • Numbness

  • Tingling or a “pins and needles” sensation

  • Muscle weakness

Keep reading to learn whether a pinched nerve could lead to erectile dysfunction.

Ever felt any of those symptoms in your penis? You may have a pinched nerve affecting your genitals — and it may be causing you to experience ED.

Nerve damage and nerve compression can cause many issues with your reproductive system, from pudendal nerve problems to ejaculation issues.

As for ED? You can definitely experience neurological ED

Nerve damage is considered a common cause of erectile dysfunction, and spinal cord injuries may make it more difficult — or even impossible — to get hard. And the ED you experience can vary in severity.

Getting an erection requires your body to function properly — it’s a perfect storm of arousal, proper blood flow and functioning nerves. So if your nerve gets pinched, it may affect one or all of these functions.

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Pinched nerves often get better on their own, though symptoms may take time to improve — a few days, weeks or even several months.

If yours doesn’t get better or the symptoms are extreme, treatment options can improve both nerve function and erectile function. 

The first step is seeing a healthcare provider, who’ll perform a physical exam to diagnose your nerve pain. They may ask you to undergo procedures, including:

  • X-ray

  • CT scan

  • MRI scan

  • Electromyography (EMG)

Your healthcare provider will then make recommendations based on your results, such as:

  • Resting the affected area

  • Avoiding exercise

  • Reducing movement and activities that could worsen symptoms

  • Physical therapy to strengthen the muscles

  • Support devices to reduce pressure or strain

  • Pain medications, like oral corticosteroids, ibuprofen or aspirin

If your symptoms don’t improve, spinal surgery or surgery to relieve pressure on the nerve might be necessary to treat the underlying issue.

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ED due to a pinched nerve will improve when the pinched nerve improves — that’s about all there is to it.

However, erectile dysfunction that doesn’t improve could be related to a number of other issues. Remember those blood vessels we mentioned? Well, they could be functioning improperly due to another underlying cause of ED.

But keep in mind erectile dysfunction can also be a result of mental health issues like depression or anxiety — or even medications such as antidepressants. ED can be due to other medical conditions as well, like obesity, heart disease, blood pressure issues or something else entirely.

Dealing with persistent ED that just doesn’t seem to improve? Medication, lifestyle changes and other solutions may help.

Common medications for erectile dysfunction include PDE5 inhibitors, which open up blood flow to your erections. The most popular of these are:

  • Sildenafil. The active ingredient of Viagra®, sildenafil provides about four hours of relief per dose.

  • Tadalafil. Cialis® and its generic tadalafil are long-lasting medications that can provide up to 36 hours of relief per dose.

  • Avanafil. Stendra®’s active ingredient avanafil works quickly and has a reduced instance of certain side effects.

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While a pinched nerve is one potential cause of erectile dysfunction, a chiropractor probably won’t be able to crack you until you can get hard again.

If you’re seeing erectile issues, you need to seek out medical advice.

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. Your provider might also suggest medication to treat ED and improve sexual function.

Here’s what to keep in mind:

  • Pinched nerves develop from injuries, diseases and health risk factors like obesity.

  • Spinal cord and other nerve damage may cause sudden ED or temporary ED. We discussed these in our blog on erectile dysfunction nerve damage symptoms.                          

  • A pinched nerve improves on its own most of the time, but you may have to rest or do physical therapy.

Working through ED problems? We can help.

We offer FDA-approved ED medications online. You can get a prescription following a virtual consultation with a healthcare provider, who can give you personalized suggestions, like chewable ED hard mints.                         

6 Sources

  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Pinched nerve. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/pinched-nerve.
  2. Ferrari, S., Vanti, C., Frigau, L., Guccione, A. A., Mola, F., Ruggeri, M., Pillastrini, P., & Monticone, M. (2019). Sexual disability in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain-a multicenter retrospective analysis. Journal of physical therapy science, 31(4), 360–365. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6451955/.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.-a). Definition and Facts for erectile dysfunction - NIDDK. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts.
  4. Davis D, Maini K, Vasudevan A. Sciatica. [Updated 2022 May 6]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507908/.
  5. Panneerselvam, K., Kanna, R. M., Shetty, A. P., & Rajasekaran, S. (2022). Impact of Acute Lumbar Disk Herniation on Sexual Function in Male Patients. Asian spine journal, 16(4), 510–518. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9441438/.
  6. Ferrari, S., Vanti, C., Frigau, L., Guccione, A. A., Mola, F., Ruggeri, M., Pillastrini, P., & Monticone, M. (2019). Sexual disability in patients with chronic non-specific low back pain-a multicenter retrospective analysis. Journal of physical therapy science, 31(4), 360–365. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6451955/.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kristin Hall, FNP

Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership. 

She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH

Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare. 

Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.

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