Stuart Brown from ED Clinics West Midlands speaks to Caroline Martin of BBC Midlands about men’s health conditions, public perception, and how shockwave therapy can help.
Caroline: Now I said we’re talking about erectile dysfunction. Why? Why are we talking about it? Well its simple, I’ve had loads of messages from men that are going through this at the minute. Some are too embarrassed to get help, some are too embarrassed to tell their families, some are worried it could be a sign of something else, some think this Is how they’re going to be forever, so we wanted to get someone to explain what it is and what you can do about it. So earlier on I had a chat with therapist Stuart Brown, who has a unique understanding of men’s sexual health problems. He’s had a wealth of experience treating men of all ages with varying degrees of erectile dysfunction. The treatment is called shockwave therapy, and Stuart began by explaining how it can help.
Stuart: Initially when we set up, we began using shockwaves around eight years ago. I’d begun lecturing on shockwave and was one of the people higher up in shockwave in the country. When I was lecturing I was speaking to other tutors and going out to Switzerland and abroad, one of the things we noticed was that they were offering it as an erectile dysfunction treatment, which we were not in this country. So I said what’s this all about and we looked into it and did some courses and saw that the treatment was actually tackling the underlying causes.
If you just take some tablets like Viagra or Cialis, or anything like that, then realistically it’s not a long term solution, it just pastes over the cracks. It treats the symptoms but not the underlying reasons for the symptoms.
Caroline: Right because I have heard from some men that have gone to the doctor to talk about it and this is what they’re being given, a tablet to hopefully make it work so that they can get an erection but the situation continues because they don’t know why it’s happening in the first place.
Stuart: To me the doctor is still an important port of call, they can give you tests for things like vascular conditions which would prevent flow of blood to the area. 40% of ED cases are cardiovascular, 33% are diabetes which also involves issues with blood supply, and only a small percentage are to do with hormones or injury.
Caroline: What is the treatment then?
Stuart: Shockwave! Basically shockwaves repair or regenerate tissue, so it’s not just used for the penis, it can be used all over the body. Starting at the top of the head [a type of shockwave therapy] is being used to treat Alzheimer’s and there’s research on Parkinson’s. You can also use it to treat bones that won’t heal, tendinopathies, things like that. Tissue is tissue and it repairs and regenerates tissue. It’s non-invasive and completely safe.
Caroline: Now when it comes to the age groups of the people who come and consult you about this that are open to having a discussion, who is the most vocal or most likely to ask for help?
Stuart: One of my friends is writing a book on this at the moment and I had a chat with him and a look at our website as well and the stats are pretty amazing. Four and a half million men have ED in this country and 66% of men will experience the condition at some point or another. 50% of those men won’t seek help for a condition and around a quarter would rather just let their relationship fall apart than go and speak to a GP.
Caroline: Why though? Why? Are they just embarrassed? Why are they not seeking help?
Stuart: I think its a variety of things and things change over time. WIth the advent of social media and people talking more openly about these things like yourself now. When I started doing it, I presumed it would just be a lot of older men over 50 or 60, but in reality we probably get just about as many between 25 and 55. We’ve treated everyone from 19 to 85, all kinds of age groups.
Caroline: I can kind of understand younger people coming in. They’re in the prime of their life and they want to get some help and assistance with this, but it’s sad to think that there are people who are older who are just living with it as opposed to dealing with it.
Stuart: We had a chap who was maybe in his mid-30s who had basically given up on the idea he would ever have children or marriage and shied away from it all because he knew he had ED. He came in for treatment and after a couple of sessions he said “this works you know!” and I said “yeah!” and he said “I’m going to propose to my girlfriend”. It changed his whole life.
Caroline: That’s amazing. I have a friend who’s just started seeing someone and he’s been through a lot of stress, a lot of upset, and this was one of the first conversations that they’d had she said she didn’t know if she should enter into a relationship like this and i said you know what, the funniest thing, I’m doing a show about this on Monday and maybe if you help him and are supportive he can deal with it. He was brave to bring it up at the start of the relationship, but seemingly thinking this is something we’re going to have to live with when this isn’t the case.
Stuart: Yeah I think that’s a vulnerable position two when starting a new relationship. Maybe you haven’t been in a new relationship for a year or two and it can be a case of “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. With the pressure of going into a relationship when you’re older, and especially if you have issues with cholesterol or diabetes, there can be anxiety around talking to a new partner about it. As you said, its best to be candid about it, and sooner rather than later. We have some people who wait a long time.
Caroline: Can you clear something up, is there a difference between erectile dysfunction and being impotent because they’re two words that are bandied around a lot and some people say there’s a marked difference and some people say it’s the same thing.
Stuart: They’re exactly the same thing, what were people saying the difference was?
Caroline: Someone said that they were impotent and so they couldn’t get hard, and others were saying that it meant they could get hard but they couldn’t ejaculate and couldn’t sustain an erection.
Stuart: Well we have a lot of men who can’t maintain it because they’re blood pressure [in the penis] drops. The valve leaks. So they can get an erection but they can’t hold it for long. We treat a lot of that as well. To me it’s all under one bracket really, its erectile dysfunction.
Caroline: It’s the men’s club on BBC radio across the Midlands and my guest tonight is therapist Stuart Brown who helps men with erectile dysfunction. Now he has explained that he uses shockwave therapy and when I put it to him earlier that many men turned to porn while they couldn’t partake in sexual activities with others and I wondered whether this had maybe had a negative effect on sexual performance.
Stuart: It is a concern we have. Porn has completely changed perception of sex and I think that can have a big effect. These youngsters that are coming through with a lot more and easier access to it from a young age, and these things like “jelqing” or hard flaccid syndrome are things that we’re going to see a lot more of in the future. So that’s younger men in their 20s or 30s.
Jelqing is basically when they create microtrauma by pulling on it and what they think they are doing is enlarging it and the penis heals itself and they think they are getting a bigger penis from it but the reality is they’re causing serious problems and it can lead to painful conditions like hard flaccid syndrome. Shockwave can help that.
We’re also seeing a lot of Peyronie’s, which is caused by trauma to the penis and causes curvature to the penis.
Caroline: Goodness me, and that’s treatable with shockwave too is it?
Stuart: Peyronie’s is quite a useful one because we can use ultrasound and see the effect the shockwaves have had on the inside of the penis. It’s something we do with Peyonie’s but not with erectile dysfunction. A lot of these men [with Peyronie’s] go to the doctor and there isn’t any help, it’s just “see how you get on” but they’ve got a bent penis, they don’t know where its come from, they think its abnormal, they’re embarrassed by it and there’s not much good treatment out there for it.
Caroline: And I guess like everything else these days even if there is treatment, there’s a long waiting list [on the NHS] to get it.
Stuart: Sometimes I suggest that people get blood tests, as erectile dysfunction is sometimes like the bird down the mine, it’s an early warning system that other things are going on. Every week I try to tick off a box, what’s your lifestyle like, have you had your testosterone checked, what’s your anxiety like, do you sleep, are you stressed, how many hours do you work, drinking, smoking, it’s an early warning sign. It’s a blessing in a way because it allows you to sort yourself out. Shockwave is great at dealing with ED but you still have to deal with the underlying system.
Caroline: And the adverts, we were speaking about this before we came on air, the adverts are very in your face these days. Do they cut through or do they just blanche when they’re on television? They are quite shouty.
Stuart: There are so many different types of companies, like I’m part of ED Clinics UK, a group of clinicians who came together and said that we wanted certain standards on this, so we’re selective about who we let into the group. Its evidence based practice. There are ten thousand studies on shockwaves, so we look at those and say right, what can we do, what can’t we do, what helps or doesn’t help. I had a chap recently who said “don’t worry, i’m going to take a tablet for the next couple of weeks, see how I get on with that, and also this tablet makes your penis bigger” and I was like “…oh god..”
Caroline: Right [laughs]. Well. But I guess if you’re desperate and someone says take this tablet and all will be well. If you’re desperate and not the type to talk about it, you’re going to try it aren’t you?
Stuart: Yeah we have patients who have tried these things and yeah, it’s not going to work is it? But it’s the same with tablets like Viagra or Cialis or something like that. That’s the first port of call for most people, medication. The reality is that’s not going to help long-term. A lot of my patients will say I took it for two years or five years and the dosages got higher and then it stopped working. Then I stopped having erections overnight. Then I did injections, and all this time it’s degenerating and it gets harder to treat.
Caroline: So if we have people who are listening tonight, and we know we have, they’re unlikely to call me but they may message through later, and they’re thinking this is great that we’re talking about this, what would you advise them to do? If this has either been going on for some while or if it’s a recent thing, what should they do first?
Stuart: Going to a doctor is a good first port of call to get checked over, to check if its worth getting cardiovascular tests, hormone tests, but then shockwave is a very effective long term answer. Find a good and reputable shockwave practitioner. Come and see ED Clinics UK, we all keep ourselves at a certain standard.
Caroline: Right and just finally, is this having an effect on people’s relationships in general? I’ve got a letter that was sent to me from one of our listeners. There’s a lot of stress, they have a lot going on with finances. He’s always had a really active sex life with his partner but now because of what’s going on he can’t perform. His partner is worried that because he could before and now he can’t that he must be having an affair. This can’t be an isolated case of this?
Stuart: Yeah I’ve taken time out of the clinic to sit down and talk to patients about things like this. I had a conversation like that today. The way men deal with it and the way women deal with it is so different. Some women will blame themselves and say “oh I’m not attractive anymore” or “you’re having an affair with someone”, or the opposite where they’ll say “either you sort this out or we’re splitting up”.
Caroline: And that’s even more pressure right there isn’t it?
Stuart: I’ve had patients come to me and say I told my wife I was coming here and she said “well if it doesn’t work then that’s it” and I’m like “right, that’s not helping the situation”.
Caroline: Oh god, well what we’re trying to do with this programme is to make it a learning experience for women as well, so we can understand men’s minds a little better. I hope they take note that that’s not the answer!
Stuart: It’s heard enough for some of these men as it is, they really beat themselves up, things like “I’m not a man anymore”. I’ve had men cry before they’ve even started, big strong men. They don’t deserve it. Such nice people and they’re like “I’m hopeless, she doesn’t deserve this” and they’re not!
Caroline: And it’s one of those things that can affect anyone at any time can’t it? Similar things can happen to a woman that mean she can’t perform. Stuart, do you have a website that people can go to, maybe find out a bit more. I know we’ve talked for a while but really have just scratched the surface.
Stuart: There’s edclinics.co.uk which is the group, and our clinic is solihullandbirminghamchiropody.co.uk. ED Clinics has videos on there as well as info about the treatment. All very discreet, non invasive, pain free, and results are generally very good depending on the patient that walks through the door but generally we get very good results.
Caroline: Listen it’s been great having you on and very informative, and hopefully we can call on you again at some point!
You can listen to the whole interview here, starting at 37 minutes in.
Stuart Brown’s clinic, ED Clinics West Midlands, can be found here.