Can Using a Vibrator Too Much Be Harmful?

Feb 16, 2018 at 3:00 p.m. ET
Image: Getty Images/Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

You've heard that "moderation is key" and "there can be too much of a good thing," right? Well, surely this doesn't apply to vibrators and sex toys. However, we just wanted to make sure, because self-love is a thing, and vibrators can actually help women who are experiencing sexual dysfunction. Here's what we found out.

Vibes 'r' us

Vibrator use is really quite common, with a study out of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University finding that a little more than 50 percent of women use them. While vibes are pretty easy to master, there are a few factors that could possibly contribute to potential harm (namely, operating them on or with our genitals), and we know that we definitely do not want to harm our genitals.

Actually, there have been research studies that show that vibe use has benefits that go beyond a quick and easy orgasm. A study out of the University of Colorado showed that vibrators have a host of benefits for those who suffer from some sexual arousal or sensation problems and may work to heal underlying nerve damage.

"The proposed mechanism is that sexual function is improved as a result of increased stimulation to the nerves and possibly improved blood flow to the area with assisted stimulation," study author Dr. Marsha K. Guess says in a statement.

More: Masturbation Comes With Some Serious Health Benefits

So, is there bad news?

Although there are plenty of good orgasms to be had (as well as the healing of sexual function, which is a crucial topic of overall good health), there has to be some bad news with vibrator use, right? Some valid concerns surround the idea of overuse, numbness, tingling or other injuries to areas that are naturally sensitive. However, most of these fears are unfounded — as long as you're doing everything the right way.

Dr. Jessica Shepherd, an OB-GYN, says vibrators are not harmful to the genital area if used correctly. However, she notes that if they're used too aggressively or shared between folks without proper cleaning, there is potential for doing harm.

But she says there isn't much to the notion that using them "too much" will decrease sensation or the ability to orgasm in the long-term. She says as women become more comfortable with vibrators, they will also become more familiar with their own erotic responsiveness, which can assist with their non-vibe sexual encounters.

The study mentioned above from Indiana University does bolster this fact and notes that side effects are rare, and those that do occur don't tend to last. Over 70 percent of respondents said they experienced no negative side effects from vibrator use, with 3 percent reporting pain. We can't say for sure if this was from incorrect use or underlying medical conditions, of course, but both those factors definitely can contribute to negative side effects from vibrator use.

How can you avoid potential problems?

Negative vibe side effects are rare, but they can happen. As Shepherd mentions, care must be taken to avoid preventable problems. She suggests reading the directions (yes, many sex toys have directions — read them!) and cleaning them after every use. It's also crucial to communicate with your partner if they're using the toy too roughly.

More: How Mutual Masturbation Can Help Create Intimacy & Make Sex Better

Also, vibrator use can increase sexual satisfaction across the board, no matter how it's accomplished. "The science of orgasm also depends on the response to erotic stimulation, and that includes from fingers, tongue, penis or even a vibrator," Shepherd explains. "Most times, a vibrator will not decrease the body's ability to respond to other types of sexual stimulation and cannot numb the genitals."

So basically, human genitals are pretty tough, but if it hurts, don't do it. Clean your toys. Keep lines of communication open with your partner if you're playing together. And keep in mind that vibe use can help those with certain sexual dysfunctions by increasing blood flow and possibly restoring nerve health. This sounds like a win-win to us.

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