Robert Nicholson is the founder and president of the ED Treatment Information Center, a resource for living with erectile dysfunction.
Over 30 million men in the United States alone have erectile dysfunction. About 2/3 of those men are able to achieve erections using a class of medications called phosphodiesterase (PDE) 5 inhibitors. PDE-5 inhibitors (Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and their generic equivalents) are available by prescription in the US.
For men who don’t respond to PDE-5 inhibitors, or who cannot tolerate the side effects, there are other treatment options, including intracavernous penile injections and vacuum Erection devices (“penis pumps”).
While these treatments may allow men to achieve an erection, they do not offer a cure for the condition.
A relatively new treatment option, Low-Intensity Extracorporeal Shockwave Therapy (LI-ESWT), offers the promise of actually reversing erectile dysfunction. Administering low-intensity sound waves has been found to encourage the development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), and improve the function of smooth muscle and endothelial cells. Shockwaves may also break up and reduce blockages in arteries in the penis.
Shockwave therapy itself is actually not new – it has been used for many years to treat sports injuries, plantar fasciitis, elbow tendinopathy, and chronic pain. It has only recently been applied as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction
There is a great deal of clinical research showing that shockwave therapy is a safe and effective treatment option. A review of studies, conducted in 2019, found that “LI-ESWT could significantly improve erectile function in men with ED regarding both patient-subjective outcomes and patient-objective outcomes. In conclusion, the present meta-analysis provided results showing that LI-ESWT significantly improves erectile function in patients with vasculogenic ED.”
The treatment is most effective for men with mild to moderate vascular erectile dysfunction.
Shockwave therapy is administered at a clinic, over a period of several weeks. A series of 6-12 treatments typically costs several thousand dollars, making the treatment an expensive gamble which may or may not product results.
In 2020, a Southern California company, Launch Medical, began selling a shockwave device intended for home use . I spoke with Dustin Wolff, one of the company founders, who operated a men’s health clinic prior to starting Launch Medical. He told me that their device – now being sold as the Phoenix – was designed to match the energy signature and treatment protocols of the clinical equipment, but is intended for a limited number of treatments. The Phoenix sells for $850, making it much more affordable than a series of clinical treatments.
I am not a good candidate for shockwave therapy. I have severe ED resulting from circulatory problems and nerve damage following a radical prostatectomy. Oral PDE-5 inhibitors do not work for me; I am able to achieve an erection only with intracavernous penile injections. Nevertheless, I was excited by the possibility of permanent improvement, and I decided to given the Phoenix a try.
About the Phoenix
The Phoenix is a self-contained, hand-held device, about 11” long by 4” wide. It is not rechargeable; it must be plugged into a power outlet to use. The company provides several packets of a numbing cream, which I did not find necessary, and several packets that are inexplicably labelled “heat shield.” This is actually a lubricant that helps the tip of the Phoenix slide smoothly over the skin. The packets included don’t last very long, but you can use any water-soluble “sex lube.”
The Phoenix comes with a vacuum pump, which is also part of the therapy. The package includes instructions, and links to online videos for more information on how to use the device.
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Using the Phoenix
Following the company’s recommendations, I decided to use the Phoenix twice per week. The shockwaves actually cause micro-trauma in the penis; the body’s natural healing processes then produces new blood vessels through a process called angiogenesys. It’s important to take time off between treatments to give the body time to heal. In fact, once a treatment is complete, the Phoenix automatically locks and cannot be used again for 36 hours.
A full treatment takes about 20 minutes. The tip of the device is moved up and down the penis, using firm pressure. A series of LEDs tell the user how fast to move the device, and when to change positions.
The treatment is mildly uncomfortable, but not painful. The device is quite loud when in use…. similar to an old-fashioned vacuum cleaner.
As part of my treatment plan, I also used the vacuum pump twice a day, for ten minutes each time. Men with erectile dysfunction usually don’t have sufficient blood flow to the penis. Lack of blood flow (and oxygen) causes the tissues to weaken and atrophy. The goal of the pump (in conjunction with the shockwave treatments) is to restore blood flow.
I began to notice results after five or six treatments. I was able to achieve a partial erection without medication. My penis was noticeably “fuller,” even in its flaccid state. Because the treatment protocol includes both the shockwave device and the pump, it’s not possible to say which component was responsible for any improvements.
From that point forward, however, I didn’t see as much improvement. I completed a total of twelve shockwave treatments, and continued using the vacuum pump through the treatment period.
I have since learned that many doctors advise taking a break between series of treatments (for example, six treatments, a three-week break, followed by six more treatments). I did not take a break, and perhaps that’s the reason why my progress seemed to hit a plateau.
After completing my treatments, I found that I was able to achieve a serviceable erection using PDE-5 inhibitors – something that had not been true for years. On a few occasions, I’m even been able to achieve an erection without any medication.
Conclusions About Home Shockwave Therapy for ED
Based on the severity of my condition, I am a worst-case patient for shockwave therapy, and yet I saw very clear and measurable improvements. Based on the clinical research I have read, and the discussions of shockwave therapy in online forums, I suspect men with milder ER would see much more dramatic improvements.
I have recently started another series of treatments (after taking six weeks off). I’ve just completed the second treatment, and subjectively I feel like I am already seeing benefits.
I’m very satisfied with the Phoenix, and I recommend it to anyone who suffers from vasculogenic erectile dysfunction.
- Sokolakis, Ioannis; Hatzichristodoulou, Georgios. “Clinical studies on low intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy for erectile dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” International Journal of Impotence Research. Jan 2019.
- “Phoenix: At-Home Shockwave Therapy for Erectile Dysfunction.” Aug 2020.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.