carrot, corn and cucumber

Yoxly Awesome Contributors

Written by:

Yoxly Awesome Contributors

Danae Image

Medically Reviewed by:

Dr Danae Maragouthakis

Penis pumps are one of several tools available for people who experience erectile difficulties. While they won’t cause your penis to grow permanently, they can be quick and effective tools for helping you to get or maintain an erection without having to use medication. 

In this article, we’ll explain what a penis pump actually is, how penis pumps work, the different types of pumps, some tips on how to use one, and more.

What Is a Penis Pump?

A penis pump is a mechanical device that is used to increase blood flow to the penis to aid in achieving and maintaining an erection. 

Also known as a vacuum erection device (VED), a penis pump usually consists of a tube or cylinder that the penis goes into, a pumping mechanism that’s either hand- or battery-powered, and a constriction band (sometimes called a cock ring) that can be used to keep blood in the penis and maintain the erection.

Why Use a Penis Pump? 

A penis pump can help men who have erectile dysfunction (ED) to achieve an erection hard enough for penetrative sex. It’s less expensive than ED medication, non-invasive, and generally has fewer systemic side effects than other ED treatments.

Penis pumps are also sometimes used by men without ED to enhance sexual pleasure, prolong an erection, or because they think it makes their penis appear bigger. 

Do Penis Pumps Work? 

In short, yes. Penis pumps can successfully help 70% to 90% of men achieve an erection. They won’t cure erectile dysfunction permanently, but penis pumps can be used on-demand to create an erection that’s hard enough for sexual activity and can help improve your sex life. Studies indicate that up to 90% of users are happy with the results of using a penis pump.

Pumps can be used alone or with medications for ED, like Viagra (if advised by your doctor). 

It’s important to be aware that vacuum devices won’t increase the size of your penis. However, they are effective for ED, especially if the ED is due to surgical removal of the prostate. Pumps can even improve other medical conditions like Peyronie’s disease, where the penis is curved due to the formation of scar tissue.

How Do Penis Pumps Work?

Penis pumps work by manually increasing blood flow to the penis, causing blood vessels to swell and to make the penis temporarily bigger and harder. 

This penis is inserted into a plastic cylinder, and a pump is used to remove air (in the case of hydro-pumps, water) from within the cylinder. This creates a negative pressure within the cylinder and draws blood into the erectile tissues of the penis, creating an erection. 

If desired, a constriction band or ring is then placed around the base of the penis to maintain the erection once the cylinder has been removed. 

In some cases, it may be advisable for the person to shave some of their pubic hair before applying the pump to ensure a better pressure seal.

Types of Penis Pumps

There are various types of penis pumps available, but manual air pumps are the most common. 

Manual air pumps

Manual devices use a hand-powered pump to create the vacuum seal that draws blood into the penis. This type of pump is often the cheapest, is easy to use, and offers the user more control over the exact degree and pace of pressure. However, it does require manual effort. 

Electric air pumps

Electric or battery-powered air pumps make the pumping process easier by using a motor to create the vacuum. Some people prefer this type as they don't have to operate a pump manually. However, they may be more expensive.

Water-based/hydro pumps

Unlike air pumps that create a seal by removing air from the tube, water-based penis pumps use water. Before inserting the penis, the tube must first be filled with water. The water is then sucked out of the tube, lowering the pressure around the penis and increasing blood flow.

Hydro penis pumps are a popular choice as they are intended to apply pressure more evenly around the whole penis, which can be more comfortable. However, they can be messy and are best used in the bathroom. 

Buying a Penis Pump

Penis pumps are sometimes available for free on the NHS, depending on your medical history and where you live. They are also readily available to purchase if you are not eligible for NHS coverage of a pump or if you wish to fund your own.

Cost of a penis pump

Penis pumps can cost between £20 and £300, depending on the type. 

What to look for when buying a penis pump

  • Cylinder size: Penis pumps can be different sizes, and it’s important to find one that both comfortably fits over your flaccid penis and can also accommodate a full erection without discomfort.
  • Constriction band or cock ring size: Cockrings should fit comfortably over the base of the erect penis without causing discomfort. They should also be able to be stretched sufficiently to remove them without difficulty. 
  • Release valve: A penis pump should have a quick release value. This can be triggered to release pressure immediately should you notice any bruising, pain, discomfort, or numbness.
  • Pressure gauge: It’s best to choose a pump with a vacuum limiter or pressure gauge to prevent over-pumping and injury to the penis. 

How To Use a Penis Pump

Individual pump designs may vary, but they all generally involve the same few steps:

Step 1: Insert your penis into the pump

To use a penis pump, insert your penis into the cylinder, ensuring the base of the cylinder makes a good seal with the skin at the base of the penis. Using lubricant or shaving pubic hair can help with creating a good seal. 

Step 2: Using the pumping mechanism

Then, use the pump mechanism to remove air from within the cylinder around the penis, creating a vacuum. The pumping process causes blood to be drawn into the penis, resulting in erectile tissue becoming engorged and erect. It can take up to seven minutes to achieve a full erection. 

Step 3: Apply a constriction band or cock ring

Penis pumps usually come with a constriction band or ring. Once an erection is achieved, slide this ring over the base of the penis and remove the cylinder. You may need some lubricant to get the ring into a comfortable position. The ring stops blood from escaping from the penis, meaning the erection is maintained when the cylinder is removed. 

Step 4: Enjoy your erection!

You’re now ready to engage in whatever sexual activity you have planned. Constriction bands should not be left on the penis for any more than 30 minutes. Remove the constriction band immediately if you experience discomfort, pain, numbness, or discolouration of the penis.

Step 5: Afterwards

After sexual activity is over, the ring should be stretched to allow the blood to leave the penis and be removed once the erection has gone down. It’s important not to keep the penis ring in place for more than 30 minutes to avoid causing bruising and permanent damage.

Shop Our At-Home STI Test Kits

Test your sexual health from home with our range of at-home STI tests.

Shop Now

Penis Pump Safety

When used correctly, penis pumps are safe to use. A person can use it as often as is comfortable. Since they are a non-medical and noninvasive tool for treating ED, penis pumps can be a good option for people concerned about the risks of systemic side effects that often come with other ED treatments.

Risks of using a penis pump

Using a penis pump to enhance an erection does come with some risks, including:

  • Difficulty ejaculating. Up to 60% of men experience some difficulty ejaculating after using a penis pump. This is because the constriction band or ring used to maintain an erection can hinder the flow of semen at the point of ejaculation.
  • Irritation of the penis
  • Bruising
  • Loss of sensation in the penis. This is a particular risk if the pump is used for a prolonged time or a ring is left on the penis for too long.
  • Pain

If they occur, these issues tend to be temporary and resolve with time – but they can be uncomfortable and could possibly cause further issues, so don’t hesitate to see a healthcare provider if you’re concerned. Because of these risks, it may not be advisable to use penis pumps recreationally or as a sex toy.

Who Should Not Use a Penis Pump?

Men with certain medical conditions should not use a penis pump without first consulting with their healthcare provider. Using too much pressure can cause bruising beneath the skin of the penis, which can be risky if you:

  • Have a blood disorder (e.g. sickle cell anaemia or haemophilia).
  • Take blood-thinning or anticoagulant medications (such as aspirin, rivaroxaban, warfarin, or clopidogrel).
  • Have an anatomical issue with your penis.

Alternatives to Using a Penis Pump

If you experience ED and don’t want to use a penis pump (or don’t get the results you’re hoping for with a penis pump), there are other treatments to consider:

  • Treating underlying conditions: Erectile difficulties are frequently due to an underlying medical condition like diabetes, obesity, or cardiovascular disease. Treating an underlying condition may help resolve erectile difficulties and improve overall health.
  • Lifestyle changes: Losing weight if you are overweight, becoming more physically active, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake, and managing stress are all steps that can help relieve erectile difficulties.
  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or sex therapy may be useful for men whose erectile difficulties have a psychological or emotional component.
  • Medications: Drugs known as phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors (such as sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis)) can promote blood flow to the penis and aid in getting and maintaining an erection. Speaking to your healthcare provider (or, in some cases, your pharmacist) can help to determine if trying these medications is right for you. 
  • Injections: Alprostadil (Caverject) is a drug that is injected directly into the penis before sexual activity, stimulating an erection. Alprostadil is also available in pellet form (the pellet is inserted into the urethra before sex).
  • Penile surgery: Surgery is usually only recommended if all other ED treatment methods have been ineffective. Surgery, which may involve the insertion of a penile implant, may be especially useful for men who have sustained an injury or who have an anatomical issue contributing to erection problems. 

Tips on Using a Penis Pump

If you’re new to using a penis pump, here are a few tips to consider: 

    • Try it beforehand: Use your penis pump on your own before using it as part of sex with a partner. Ensure you know how to work the device and remove it safely. 
    • Plan ahead: Using a pump requires some planning – it may make sex less spontaneous than you’re used to, especially if you’re using a hydro pump. Keep your pump handy, and if you’re using a battery-operated device, ensure the batteries are charged and ready to go.
    • Don’t forget foreplay: By incorporating the pump into your foreplay and communicating with your partner throughout the encounter, you can alleviate tension, keep things playful, and ensure the experience is enjoyable for all involved. 
    • Shave if necessary: Often, shaving your pubic hair around the base of the penis can help the pump to fit better.
    • Use lube: Using a lubricant can help to position the pump effectively. It also helps to place and remove a cock ring if one is used.
    • Remember STI testing: While not specifically related to using a penis pump, if you’re trying your penis pump out with a new partner, it’s sensible to get tested for STIs first. With Yoxly’s STI testing kits, you can screen yourself for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis, and syphilis from the comfort of your home.

Penis Pumps: Summary

Penis pumps are devices designed to help men achieve and maintain an erection by creating a gentle vacuum around the penis, causing blood to flow to the area. There are several different types of penis pumps, and they can cost from £20 to £300. Most men achieve good results from using a penis pump; however, there are other options to help with erections if a pump isn’t for you. 

Was this blog helpful...?


❗️We'd Love Your Opinion❗️

We're building an app to encourage casual, daily participation in regular sexual self-care. We would greatly appreciate your feedback via a 30-second survey. In return, we will give you FREE access to the app at launch!

Take Our 30 Second Survey

Related Blogs

Yoxly Logo

Yoxly's Awesome Contributors

Yoxly's Awesome Contributors (YACs) are a diverse group of individuals who are passionate about public health, and committed to furthering our mission. Yoxly provides a platform where a variety of sexual health topics (some more awkward than others!) can be explored, in an informative and non-judgmental way. If you'd like to become one of Yoxly's Awesome Contributors, contact us!