If simply reading the headline of this article made you wince, you’re not alone. Whether you’ve gotten a punch or kick to the balls before or not, it’s likely that just thinking about trauma to the area is enough to make you hunch over.
“Honestly, childbirth still wins as the worst pain, but this ranks right up there,” says Jamin Brahmbhatt, M.D., co-director at The PUR Clinic, which specializes in urology and men’s health. “It definitely will hurt as much as you think it will.”
Why such sensitivity, especially in a relatively small area? It’s all about the nerves.
The scrotum and testes are pretty much a nerve bundle, Dr. Brahmbhatt says. That’s good news if there’s some gentle touch there during sexy time, he notes. But when there’s a sudden blow? Not so much.
“Not only do you have the nerves in that area specifically, but the nerve pain radiates to other parts of the body,” he says. Most notably, there’s usually a pain in the stomach, and that can lead to nausea or even vomiting. (Here’s why the blow to your balls messes with your stomach.)
The connection comes from the nerves your body develops, says Dr. Brahmbhatt.
Your testicles begin their development near your kidney, establishing a major nerve that reaches from your abdomen down to your scrotum. Nerve pain—from, say, a poorly thrown baseball or a nephew wielding a Wiffle bat—doesn’t stay put in the same area, as it would following an injury to another part of the body like a wrist or nose. Instead, there’s referred pain that radiates because of all the nerve connections.
Fortunately, it should be short-lived—although it may not feel like that when it happens. Dr. Brahmbhatt says that pain should subside within 15 minutes. If you’re still hunched over past that point, he suggests getting to the ER.
Ongoing pain could be a sign of a ruptured testicle, he notes, and that may prompt internal bleeding. It could also indicate that the testicle has lost blood supply, and that might lead to losing one of your little guys down there. In some cases, the trauma could extend to the penis, causing pain and swelling there.
“The message here is that you shouldn’t wait if it’s been longer than 15 minutes,” Dr. Brahmbhatt says. “Otherwise, it could lead to loss of the testicle, and that would affect your fertility and testosterone levels, sometimes even sexual function.”
By Elizabeth Millard