Stories from Sex Advice

OK, TMI: Can You Masturbate Too Much and, Uh, Give Yourself Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Zoe Weiner

Zoe WeinerApril 12, 2020

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Photo: Stocksy/Jovo Jovanovic

With all of our plans for the foreseeable future canceled in light of the coronavirus pandemic, a number of us now have a lot of time on our hands. And—unless you live with your partner or, I don’t know, are currently sleeping with your roommate—that also means far fewer opportunities for partnered sex. Perhaps this has led you to spend a bit of time exploring avenues of self-pleasure—or, you know, quite a bit of time. You are your own safest sex partner, after all (even the New York City Department of Health agrees), and I personally can’t think of a more fun way to celebrate social distancing than with some DIY orgasms. But if you’ve been double-tapping your C-spot with fervor, you may look down at your achy, strained wrist and wonder: Can you masturbate too much?

It might sound made up, but according to the pros, it’s totally possible to hurt yourself while getting busy with…yourself. A top concern? Carpal tunnel syndrome, which can happen when the nerve that runs from your palm through your forearm becomes pressed or squeezed at the wrist, potentially causing numbness, weakness, and pain in the hand and wrist. If you do the same movement with your hand over and over again, carpal tunnel syndrome is a potential outcome, says Gigi Engle, certified sex coach and author of All The F*cking Mistakes. “Like pretty much every single intense motion of any body part, you can theoretically injure or sprain a wrist during masturbation. You’re wildly moving your hands and fingers in whatever motion works for your body, and one wrong move can mess something up,” she says.

In order to masturbate too much, or rather to the point of hand or wrist injury, you would have to be getting busy—a lot. We’re talking four to five hours a day.

The good news, says Lucky Sekhon, MD, fertility specialist and OB/GYN, is that in order to masturbate too much, or rather to the point of hand or wrist injury, you would have to be getting busy—a lot. We’re talking four to five hours a day. “Repetitive activity can lead to inflammation and swelling of the tendons of the carpal tunnel in the wrist, which can lead to pressure on the nerve,” Dr. Sekhon says. “The likelihood of getting carpal tunnel syndrome is directly related to the frequency and duration of the repetitive activity.”

But, if you’re pairing your masturbation routine with other hand-heavy activities throughout the day, you may be upping your risk of injury. “It is possible that other repetitive activities, such as typing on a keyboard, texting, or gaming, could have additive effects, which make an individual more prone to developing symptoms of carpal tunnel when engaging in other activities, such as masturbating,” Dr. Sekhon says.

If you sense you may be showing symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome, make an appointment to see your doctor, who can examine you and develop a treatment plan, which depending on your case may involve a splint, medication, or surgery, among other lifestyle shifts. Because Dr. Sekhon says carpal tunnel syndrome is associated with repetitive stress, using the same toys or hand positions every time may be more likely to aggravate symptoms. To give those digits the day off, Engle suggests reaching for a clitoral-sucking sex toy, like the Womanizer Premium ($189) or the Tracy’s Dog Clitoral Sucking Vibrator ($45), to do the work for you. And when in doubt? “Try switching hands,” says Dr. Sekhon.

Still curious about whether you can masturbate too much with a vibrator? Well, it’s totally possible to desensitize yourself with one (whoops!). Plus, five ways to speed up your orgasm to give those hands a rest.

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