Using a Vacurect pump for penile rehabilitation

Using a Vacurect or similar pump for penile rehabilitation is a core part of maintaining sexual health while suffering from erectile dysfunction. The generic name for these awkward but magical pumps is “vacuum erectile device (VED).” Here are some practical notes based on my experience using a Vacurect VED, shared without claiming medical expertise.

I suffered from serious erectile dysfunction for about 8 months after radical prostatectomy surgery. After that, there have been hopeful signs of life in my old friend but it still is not back to its pre-surgery strength. I am actively continuing the penile rehabilitation programme described below, alongside reinventing my marital sex life to cope with my new normal.

When to start using a VED for penile rehabilitation

If you are doing this as a result of prostate cancer treatment, you should start penile rehab as soon as possible after your treatment. Check with your doctor how long to wait: many men wait six weeks, others start soon after their catheter has been removed. Some need to wait longer.

Be gentle with yourself and continue as long as it helps you enjoy sexual activity. For those whose nerves are not permanently damaged by treatment, it’s usually 6-24 months.

If this works well for you, you might stay with it long term. I know men who have continued using their VED for ten years or more as part of a happy and fulfilling sex life with their partners.

The messy mechanics of using a Vacuum Erectile Device (VED)

Firstly, get used to the fact that it is going to be messy and awkward. Try to find your sense of humour – after all “real” sex is also pretty messy at the best of times. Now is the time to get messy and do awkward things in service of your sexual health.

All details here relate the Vacurect, a simple medical-grade manually operated VED. There are many other VED options out there but this is the one I chose. Each one comes with comprehensive instructions which you should use.

Vacurect for dreg independent penile rehabilitation

What follows are some additional workarounds that worked with me.

Step 1: Fitting the penis ring

Use a relatively big ring size for rehab. It’s hard getting the ring over your penis and right down to the base when you are flaccid. Some men suffer from the so-called “turtle” effect where the penis literally retracts into the body. Most men feel very shrunken during the darkest months of ED after surgery.

I found it really helps to have the tip of my (shrunken) penis dry and not covered in lube, so I could get a grip on it while pushing the ring down. I recommend putting the lubricant around the base end of the penis instead of on the ring before you start. Give the old sausage a good tug while pushing the ring in towards the body to seat it as deeply as possible.

You can always add more lube once the ring is in place. You don’t want air to leak in, and lube around the ring helps at the cost of making it all messier. They say it helps to trim your pubic hair but I never did – I reckon this is a cultural choice.

Step 2: Pumping up an erection

Put the pump in place over your penis and push it onto the seat of the ring. You are pushing it as deeply as you can into the base of the penis, against the pubic bone. Experiment with the angle till you can get it to seat evenly all the way round. This takes practice!

If your penis gets kind of bent over because it sticks to the inside of the pump, simply give the pump a firm waggly shake from side to side to free it up. (They say you can use lube all inside the pump. That’s an alternative and it makes things super-messy)

Give a pump or two to see if it is sealed around the base. If not, try lifting the pump a centimetre and running your finger round over the seat of the ring to clear unwanted pubic hair. Try again – once it is seated you should notice the first signs of swelling after a couple of pumps.

The rate of swelling depends a huge amount on both your stage of nerve damage/recovery and your state of erotic arousal. Noticing how the rate changes is an excellent recovery feedback measurement.

Penile Rehab: nonsexual workout and stretching for your penis

The point of this is to keep the erectile tissues healthy by regularly filling them with blood. The impact is:

  • Minimises loss of penis length and girth. (Some even report an increase in size)
  • Avoids permanent damage to the erectile tissues due to lack of natural erections.
  • Just like training before you enter the real race.

Find a place where you won’t be disturbed for at least ten minutes. Some guys do it in the shower, some get their partners involved. I sometimes wait till everybody is out of the house. Particularly in the early months, I needed privacy to get to grips with the awkwardness of it all.

The goal here is to go slowly enough to let the penis gradually swell into full erectness. Blood flows into the erectile tissue because of the partial vacuum you create by operating the pump. Don’t go too fast – give the blood time to flow. Pump and wait a few seconds – look for a bit of growth, pump again and wait again, keep repeating.

Stop if and when it starts to hurt, or when you recognise your old friend back to full size. Initially, leave the pump in place for a minute to give the blood time to do its work.

Then remove the pump (you will hear the sound of air rushing in as you break the seal) and wait a while, till the swelling has subsided, then repeat. The instructions recommend about ten times; I usually get a bit bored after about three rounds and can also get a bit tender if I do it too much.

Building up a regular penile rehab programme

Many men find it awkward and a bit painful to begin with. Focus less on full erection than on stretching and swelling at least a bit. It took me weeks to build up a regular programme and the pain got less as I got used to the process. After the first month of awkwardness and discomfort I was able to do my penile rehab exercises 4-5 times per week.

Don’t stress if your erection doesn’t get up to full size the first time you try. It might take days or weeks to build up. Rushing and insisting on full size at the beginning can cause pain and damage to the blood vessels.

Remember you are in this for the long haul: months of good rehab can open the door to decades of sexual satisfaction after surgery. Also, I believe the pumping works much better if combined with regular pelvic floor exercise as well as good diet and general fitness.

What to look for: Signs of progress in penile rehabilitation

Once you have been going for at least a month you can start looking for signs of progress. Look at this month-by-month, don’t expect instant results!

  • I saw very little progress for more than a month but at least I got used to the whole awkward thing.
  • Watch what happens when you stop pumping – over time, your erection might be sustained for longer.
  • As I began healing, I found that even with the biggest “rehab size” ring, after a few months I could remove the pump without instantly losing the erection.
  • Sometimes, after removing the pump but leaving the ring in place, a few strokes on the most pleasurable places can help to keep the swelling intact in a more enjoyable way. Then as it fades, you can give it another pump as described above.
  • Compare your Vacurect erections with both spontaneous nocturnal erections and with what happens when your penis is stimulated by direct touch.

A simple roadmap for penile rehab

When my erections disappeared, I felt like I was in a wasteland with no roadmap or GPS. Let’s start creating a roadmap! Plot where you are now, and return in a month or two to evaluate your progress.

Here’s a simple anonymous questionnaire which helps you check your own progress in penile rehabilitation.

Using your Vacurect to support sexual intercourse

Over time I got over my awkwardness and was able to bring the pump into the bedroom. Then my wife was able to help and support the process. It helped us stay together during the dark months.

Here are some practical tips for using your vacuum pump to support sexual intercourse.


Like to know some history? Read the Vacurect backstory.

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From Rhys Leeming 12 July 2021: the suction feels weird and uncomfortable, borderline too uncomfortable TO START WITH. But with time, it eventually becomes a familiar feeling and no drama at all to play around with ring sizing etc. so persistence is really important.