Men's Health issues are rarely spoken about in the public forum and for some reason there seems to be a lot of confusion around what should be common knowledge when it comes to guy’s sexual and reproductive health. So instead of burying our heads in the sand and pretending we all know what’s what when it comes to vasectomy, we got some professionals to come in to provide some wise advice for those who have had, or who are looking to have the procedure, but who are concerned about when, if and how they might get back on their bike.
To give this sensitive subject due attention, we've enlisted the help of Dr. Justin Low (MBBS FRACGP) to help us answer a few questions about exercising post-operation, what you can expect immediately after, and ways to get back in the saddle safely.
Dr Low is a Vasectomist for Dr Marie (Marie Stopes International), working in their NSW, ACT and QLD clinics and, in addition to being an active father of three, has had a vasectomy himself, so knows firsthand the concern that many patients have about returning to active duty.
What is a Vasectomy?
Vasectomy is a safe, permanent method of contraception for men who have completed their family or who have decided not to have children.
A vasectomy is a straightforward day procedure that involves dividing and separating the small sperm carrying tubes (vas deferens) that are located in the scrotum. This blocks the flow of sperm from the testicles, so that when you ejaculate, the semen does not contain sperm.
Most often, the consultation and procedure take place on the same day, with the procedure taking approximately 15-30 minutes. Most vasectomies are performed under local anaesthetic but, if preferred, intravenous (twilight) sedation is available at some clinics.
What areas are affected after a vasectomy?
The groin area will usually have a slight aching feeling for the first 3-4 days post op; rest and an ice pack are recommended for the first day of recovery. Wearing jocks (versus boxers), or even an athletic supporter, may be an effective way to limit movement of the area during that time.
Soreness is typical for a few days after the procedure but lighter physical activities and office based work can be resumed after two days, depending on how you feel. Generally speaking, for the harder stuff like sports and heavy lifting, you will have to wait two - three weeks after surgery.
It’s important to remember that it’s specifically the vas deferens that has been operated on, which means sex and ejaculation in particular may be a little uncomfortable until tissues heal. Officially, you can have sex from one week after a vasectomy.
What warning signs do people need to be aware of that something is wrong following a vasectomy?
Vasectomy performed by an experienced surgeon using the “Non-Scalpel Open-Ended Technique” is a very safe and almost pain-free experience for the majority of men.
It does, however, have a few potential, though rare, side-effects: one of which is a scrotal haematoma (collection of blood in the scrotum). The reason this sometimes occurs is that the scrotal skin is loose post-op, whereas with most other operations the skin is tight and provides a tight compression effect over the wound, significantly reducing the risk of haematomas or blood collections.
If you have a sudden increase in internal blood pressure from exertion, for example, from lifting something heavy, or from direct trauma, such as hitting a pothole while you are in the saddle, you can break the seal the surgeon makes over the tiny vessels internally (which need about two weeks to get strong). The resulting bleed could potentially fill the scrotum to the size of a grapefruit!
Not only would this be heavy and uncomfortable, surgeons are often reluctant to operate on scrotal haematomas, as there is a significant risk of infection. So often the best approach is to leave them and let them reabsorb naturally, which they do completely, but this can take up to two and a half months! That’s no cycling for two and half months, which is why Dr Low is so incredibly strict about patients following the 2 week minimum enforced hiatus on sports (yes, that includes cycling).
You can be lucky and get away with cycling earlier than this but for Dr Low it is just not worth it, due to the whole painful grapefruit-sized haematoma risk, so he insists you take it easy.
A last word on risks?
"I would have to say that of all the athletes I operate on, including first grade footballers and professional triathletes, amateur cyclists are the least likely to stick to these guidelines," said Dr Low, before continuing. "I’m not sure what it is but they are clearly addicted to their sport. Guys who follow the guidelines and heal up well in the first two to three weeks go great down the track. The guys who push things to the limit often end up with small aches or strains or swellings and have to stop-start recovery over two-three months."
While every man will be different, it’s important to listen to your body and return to see your doctor if pain or swelling persists beyond a few days. Although rare, more serious complications may occur soon after surgery. If discolouration, excessive swelling or bleeding occurs, it’s important to contact your doctor immediately.
How long should you wait before getting back on the bike?
No cycling at all for two weeks.
After two weeks you can exercise on a stationary exercise bike. Remember, start slowly and build up each day after two weeks. If you experience any swelling or aching at all, back off for a day or two and then try again slowly.
At three weeks we allow patients to commence road cycling, advising them to take special care not to hit potholes or large bumps. Stick to routes you are familiar with, to reduce any risk of injury.
At four weeks we allow mountain bikers to return to cycling but again with the same precautions as above. Try to stick with simple routes you know and keep out of the saddle on bumpy sections.
What saddles are best / worst and why?
The best advice about which saddle to use really comes down to your level of pain or comfort, which is quite individual. So the best advice is to wait until your cycling probation is up, and then assess how you’re feeling. No point wasting money on a type of saddle or another, which can be quite costly, if it ends up being overkill. Generally speaking, a noseless saddle is going to be one of the gentlest options, along with other sophisticated innovations such as the Manta saddle.
If you’re not as tender but are looking for an affordable post-vasectomy comfort adjustment, a well cushioned cycling bib might be sufficient.
What adjustments can be made by the person or to the bike to ease any pain?
It can be hard for the cycling-dependent to slow down, especially as it’s a form of transport for many people, to get them from A to B, such as work, shopping and so forth – all activities which can resume pretty quickly post-surgery.
Nevertheless, it’s important not to overestimate your healing powers, or overstretch yourself, as you can do yourself some real damage. In the end, if you plan your procedure date nicely, you might be able to relax in front of the telly during a major sporting event and indulge in a good binge, with a little less guilt (and a better excuse) than you might have had – make the most the down time.
Go to an experienced surgeon and follow their guidelines and vasectomy is a simple and straightforward procedure with minimal discomfort or side effects.
And remember, when you’re getting back in the saddle (if you know what we mean) that you’re not actually in the clear until your semen test comes back with the all-clear. So use contraception until then, or you may need a different kind of bike seat, and it won’t have anything to do with the comfort of your saddle.
Please note: The information given in this article does not constitute medical advice and we advise people to seek professional medical assistance for any health concerns or issues they are suffering from.