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Post-Orgasmic Illness Syndrome (POIS)

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Holly Tanner is the Director of Education at Herman & Wallace and has curated and instructs the Male Pelvic Floor course. Male Pelvic Floor was first taught in 2008 and has since been expanded to include 22 contact hours. This current content includes 7 pre-recorded lectures and 2 full days of live lectures and labs, allowing more time for hands-on skills in examination and treatment. The schedule covers bladder, prostate, sexual health, and pelvic pain, and further discusses special topics like post-vasectomy syndrome, circumcision, and Peyronie’s disease.

 

Post-orgasmic illness syndrome (POIS) is a condition that encompasses a cluster of clinical symptoms. The literature most often reports this presentation in men as a response that occurs shortly after ejaculation and that lasts a period of days or even a week or longer. Symptoms may include transient, flu-like symptoms including, but not limited to headache, sore throat, general myalgia, exhaustion, and cognition that is impacted during the reaction. Understandably, people who experience post-orgasm illness often limit sexual encounters, demonstrate avoidance of sexual function, experience interference in relationships with partners, and report lost time from work and other activities. The diagnosis may be primary (occurring from first ejaculation experience) or secondary (acquired later in life.)

Despite the recognition that clinical presentation can be highly variable, diagnostic criteria have been described by Waldinger and colleagues in 2011 (Part 1) and are based on their study of 45 Dutch Caucasian men with POIS.

Preliminary diagnostic criteria for post-orgasmic illness syndrome include 1 or more of the following:

  • Flu-like symptoms, fatigue, muscle weakness, feeling feverish, sweating, mood disturbances or irritation, memory and concentration difficulties, nasal congestion, watery nose, and/or itchy eyes.
  • Symptoms occur immediately after or within hours after ejaculation
  • Symptoms occur almost always, or in more than 90% of ejaculation events
  • Symptoms last for 2-7 days
  • Symptoms disappear spontaneously

There are various theories postulating the reason for developing POIS including the autoimmune-allergy hypothesis, cytokine and neuroendocrine disruption, and endogenous m-opioid receptors (orgasm uses large quantities of endogenous opioids). One of the primary reasons that immune reaction to a patient’s own semen has been a strong theory is because sexual activities without ejaculation often do not produce the reaction. Hyposensitization with autologous semen has proven beneficial as a desensitization therapy. (Waldinger et al., 2011, Part 2) Other treatments that may be used include antihistamines, SSRIs, benzodiazepines, and NSAIDs. Comorbidities of POIS reported by Natale and colleagues (2020) include erectile dysfunction, allergies, chronic pelvic pain, autoimmune conditions, and depression and anxiety.

From the standpoint of pelvic rehabilitation, there is much to offer to alleviate symptoms and promote function in patients who have POIS. Genitopelvic pain during or after ejaculation, urinary hesitancy, and difficulty with bowel movements can accompany the syndrome - all complaints that warrant evaluation typical of any patient who has abdominopelvic dysfunction. In the men who have presented to me with this diagnosis, a period of sexual dysfunction including premature ejaculation was described prior to developing POIS. One patient, in particular, described a period of a decade or more of suppressing sexual desires, including masturbation, due to beliefs in his community. When he did masturbate for the first time, he developed post-orgasm illness immediately. I have also observed a tendency to report hypersensitivity to touch, with any palpation to the lower abdomen or groin area causing significant discomfort, and even spontaneous erection or orgasm that was difficult for the patient to manage. In the few cases I have seen, abdominal and pelvic muscle dysfunction was present, and patients responded favorably to manual therapy, education, breathing, and self-management with the use of thermal therapies and self-treatment for soft tissues. It is likely that a combination of medical management, as well as rehabilitation efforts, will provide the best recovery, as anyone who develops fear of an activity usually benefits from learning how to prepare for said activity by addressing concerns prior to, during, and after the activity. Addressing the nervous system response to ejaculation can be part of the rehabilitation process, and a referral to a mental health professional may also prove beneficial in managing the anxiety that often accompanies post-orgasm illness syndrome.


References:

  1. Abdessater, M., Elias, S., Mikhael, E., Alhammadi, A., & Beley, S. (2019). Post orgasmic illness syndrome: what do we know till now?. Basic and Clinical Andrology, 29(1), 1-6.
  2. Le, T. V., Nguyen, H. M. T., & Hellstrom, W. J. (2018). Postorgasmic Illness Syndrome: What do we know so far?. Journal of Rare Diseases Research & Treatment, 3(2).
  3. Nguyen, H. M. T., Bala, A., Gabrielson, A. T., & Hellstrom, W. J. (2018). Post-orgasmic illness syndrome: a review. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 6(1), 11-15.
  4. Waldinger, M. D., Meinardi, M. M., Zwinderman, A. H., & Schweitzer, D. H. (2011). Postorgasmic illness syndrome (POIS) in 45 Dutch Caucasian males: clinical characteristics and evidence for an immunogenic pathogenesis (part 1). The journal of sexual medicine, 8(4), 1164-1170.
  5. Waldinger MD, Meinardi MM, Schweitzer DH. Hyposensitization therapy with autologous semen in two Dutch caucasian males: beneficial effects in Postorgasmic illness syndrome (POIS; part 2). J Sex Med. 2011a;8(4):1171–6
  6. Waldinger, M. D., & Schweitzer, D. H. (2002). Postorgasmic illness syndrome: two cases. Journal of Sex &Marital Therapy, 28(3), 251-255.

Male Pelvic Floor Function, Dysfunction and Treatment - Satellite Lab Course

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Price: $695                                            Experience Level: Beginner-Intermediate                                            Contact Hours: 22

Description:  
The course introduces valuable concepts in pelvic health including urinary and prostate function, chronic pelvic pain, and sexual health. For therapists who have taken Pelvic Floor Function, Dysfunction, and Treatment Level 2A, the Men’s Pelvic Health Course expands on the men’s pelvic health topics introduced in Pelvic Floor Level 2A. This continuing education course is also created at an introductory level, covering topics such as internal rectal pelvic muscle examination, so that a therapist who has not taken prior pelvic floor muscle function coursework can attend. It is expected that participants will only register for satellites in which they are within driving distance, and adhere to all state and local COVID guidelines, including wearing a mask at all times during the course.

Urinary dysfunction such as post-prostatectomy incontinence, benign prostatic hypertrophy, urinary retention, and post-micturition dribble are discussed in this class. Because urinary incontinence is a potential consequence following prostate surgery, risk factors, pre-surgical rehabilitation, and post-surgical intervention strategies following prostatectomy are instructed. The medical aspects of prostate cancer testing are also clearly described, including prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing, Gleason scores, and any recent updates in recommended medical screening.

Although most men diagnosed with prostatitis do not have a true infection, prostatitis remains a common diagnosis within chronic pelvic pain. The Men’s Pelvic Health course explains typical presentations of prostatitis-like pain, evaluation techniques, and evidence-informed intervention techniques. Other pelvic diagnoses are covered, such as Peyronie's Disease, testicular and scrotal pain, penile pain, and pelvic floor muscle-related conditions. Men who experience pelvic muscle dysfunction including pain or weakness are at risk for sexual dysfunction. Participants will be able to describe the relationships between pelvic muscle function and men’s sexual health, including the evidence that demonstrates pelvic muscle rehabilitation's positive impact on erectile function. This continuing education course includes lectures and labs, including external and internal muscle mapping and neuro-myofascial treatment techniques.

Next Course Date: October 22-23, 2022

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