My condition affects half of all men — and it is more horrible than you can imagine

I can remember exactly where I was when my chronic prostatitis kicked in.

I was 24 and, during a few pints at my local, the sensation of a nail being hammered through the tip of my penis came on very suddenly. By the time I’d made it home to bed, I was passing water into an empty bottle every three seconds.

A week later I was with a urologist on Harley Street undergoing a barrage of tests: blood/urine tests, a bladder ultrasound, a urine flow test, and a digital rectal examination. With everything else coming back normal, aside from a tender prostate, the prognosis was chronic prostatitis.

Prostatitis affects men of any age but it’s most common in younger and middle-aged men, typically between 30 and 50. Up to half of all men may be affected by it at some stage in their lives. Though prostatitis accounts for a quarter of all urology consultations in Britain, it is a complicated and thus poorly understood disease. Because it has a range of common urological symptoms each person can be affected completely differently.

Basically, because of a combination of stress, strain and/or infection, the prostate — a walnut-sized organ at the bottom of the bladder — becomes inflamed, putting pressure on the urethra, bladder and pelvic floor. The result can be devastating.

For the last four years I’ve had a split V-shaped stream, several days of complete retention, nerve spasms in the rectum and the urge to urinate every ten minutes. The most frustrating of my symptoms were the bouts of weak erections — all down to constricted vessels and reduced blood flow.

The psychological impact of chronic prostatitis has been deemed worse than that associated with congestive heart failure or diabetes. Online, there are forums of 30-year-old men contemplating suicide due to the constant gnawing pain. Two months after that initial visit to the urologist, I sat down to write my own rather grandiose goodbye note.

The Harley Street urologist prescribed Flomatrax and yoga. Flomax – an alpha-blocker that relaxes the muscles in the prostate and bladder neck – didn’t improve the situation. I haven’t yet tried yoga.

He also explained that prostatitis is common in the army in those regiments that change the tracks on tanks. All the strain in that area when bending up and down can cause the gland to become infected or inflamed.

Another urologist suggested I have a cystoscopy under local anesthetic to see if there were any obstructions or scarring. Everything was ‘unremarkable’, but it took five minutes of a thick fibre optic tube being twisted up the urethra to find that out.

Consequently, like many other sufferers, I have developed a pattern of coping strategies. ‘No, I can’t crash on the couch because I’d be super uncomfortable,’ or, ‘Can we switch? I’d prefer the aisle seat.’ I worry about a future of constantly interrupted road trips, agonising long-haul flights and stop-start sex with future girlfriends. There’s only so long a date believes you’re still brushing your teeth.

I’m comfortable discussing my condition, but more guarded about the methods for dealing with it.

The internet is awash with those suggesting their own remedies. Some sufferers shove crushed Valium tablets up their back passage in the hope of relaxing the prostate. Others believe using a drumstick to drain the prostate and massage the surrounding area will help.

Some even advise a 21-day broccoli diet detox, and in recent years Botox injections in the perineum is suggested to stun nerves. A particularly common one is the use of frozen coconut oil suppositories. Aside from paralysing my pelvic floor with Botox, I’ve tried them all.

Other less hands-on remedies involved taking mixtures of sleeping tablets and anti-anxiety medication — Xanax, clonazepam, diazepam, zolpidem — in the hope of getting a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.

While working in Guangzhou, China, I saw a urologist whose approach was to give me prostate massages three times a week for two months.

They were highly effective, numbing the area for a good few hours after each session — which often involved at least 10 other out-patients crowded around the bed vying for his attention. He prescribed huge bags of bitter Chinese tea which did little other than to stink out my kitchen.

Aside from sessions of switching between incredibly hot and cold sitz baths, forgoing the weekend curry and double espressos, there’s little else that can help.

With every GP, urologist and physiotherapist I’ve visited stuck twiddling their thumbs, I’ve had to learn a kind of subdued acceptance.

The best thing for me is creating my own distractions: having a routine, people to talk to, and exhausting workout sessions.

At the moment, I’m waiting to have an endoscopy for further investigation. But, like many other sufferers, I may be told that it’s all in my head.


  • Becki Meehan

    Thank you for sharing your story, and for opening a discussion which is still often not out in the open. As a Physiotherapist in the US who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction your story and frustrations with medicine and solutions is one that I have heard many times before. I encourage you to find a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction and works as integratively as possible, including looking at the relationships of the the diaphragm and the pelvis. Good luck on your journey…there are people to assist you along the way!

  • NG

    Read Tim Parks’ “Teach us to sit still”. Good luck!

  • NG

    Re Tim Parks book: he was in despair considering radical surgery to deal with symptoms that sound very like yours but found a proper solution without surgery or drugs. if I tell you about the book it’ll sound lame, you need to read it – and it’s a very good read anyway.

  • Carl Wence

    I’m 19 years with this. Onset unreal. Basically weeping in pain for 3 months. 10 pain. Wife left in 2nd year. It subsides though. It does. Can take years no doubt. It’s an infection for sure. Stinging after ejaculation. Right side Lymph nodes sore is a second phase. Swollen eye lids. Numbness and weakness in right arm or leg. This makes sense as right half of body has deoxygenated blood return. Lower gastro issues among many at times as well. Kidney soreness. Prostate massage in combination with ejaculation is not a solution. Massage without can be. The most common habit amongst all sufferers is, by my unscientific account, either unnaturally frequent masturbation or sex practices outside of marriage. It remains undocumented as most find an unnecessary disclosure. Peace to all. It’s a life changing condition. God help us all.

  • William Baker

    I can honestly say this condition has ruined my life. It was due to improper masturbation habits (coupling it with abdominal workouts). If I abstain from any form of arousal/ejaculation for months then the pain can subside but then I masturbate again or get aroused an back to square one. I have somewhat unusual symptoms in that I only have lower abdominal pain (which is often quite severe) which led me on the wrong medical path for many months. I cannot believe I could have completely ruined my health (and my life) by something regarded as so natural. My only advice would be to either never masturbate or do it carefully and sparingly. The issue with masturbation is that it douses the pain when doing it which means that you may not know you are causing more pain.

  • land

    I had this for 3 years, horrible horrible horrible stuff. Luckily, I never gave up and neither should you and I am pain free. I learned of this site from my chiropractor who told me one of his other patients got cured from it, and wouldn’t you know, it cured me too. Its basically a sit built by a guy who had prostatitis and how he found a single treatment that cured him in a couple days. Its easy and you do it at home, its actually a massage where you wouldnt expect. I thought it was stupid and that it would never work, but Im pain free and so thankful, so I wanted to share. Copy and paste into your browser. Its a shame that they charge, but its worth it if it works.

  • Scott Everson

    Most of what you need to know about this disease. It’s a physio issue, not urology.

  • Charlie David-Lloyd

    I feel everybody’s struggles here. I like many others feared that I was be labelled as having a psychosomatic consition, but “fortunately” in my case aside from my prostate being tender it is also very enlarged. Im 28 and my consultant said that my prostate was one of the biggest she had ever felt in someone under 50.

    Unfortunately as many people are finding, medicine does not carry the answers. Overtime we have become accustomed to Dr’s taking ownership for our health conditions and believing that we are in no way responsible for problems with our bodies. Prostatitis is NOT a disease, it is a machanical problem, which does have psychological aspects to it.

    I, for example, found sex very painful because of muscle contractions, but taught myself to ignore/ ride through the pain and attempt to associate it with pleasure. After a few times the pain dissapeared during sex. It does occasionally come back, particularly during times of stress.

    Stress is a major factor in this problem. I can actually feel my prostate constantly but during times of really high stress the pain gets to the point that I feel like I have a watermelon sat between my hips trying to push them apart from the inside.
    I have recently started a really high dose vitamin regime, with Saw Palmetto, pumpkin seeds and also bee pollen – these are recognised as having prostate shrinking effects.
    I personally dont think that anyone who claims to be cured in a short period of time actually has prostatitis as the condition is chronic in nature and fluctuates over time.
    But overall my message is stop waiting for medicine to curr you and find what works for you. There are sooo many things you can try. I chose a vitamin and suppliment regime as a great deal of problems can occour if the body becomes deficient in just one vitamin, becuase they play off of each other and when you become deficient in one, another is unable to work because it requires the one you are deficient in.