Dr. Kate: Bad Vibrations

jackhammerphoto by jacobms

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City and she answers your medical questions here once a week. To ask her your own question, click here.

A patient in my office last week confessed to me that she’s worried she’s hurt herself from too much vibrator use. She asked me how common vibrator-induced injuries were…and I had no idea. Searching throughout my usual (and not-so-usual) references didn’t yield much information, either. Apparently, sex toy hazards are not a common area of research or publication (go figure). So the advice I could give her (and everyone else) is based mostly on common sense:

  • Baby yourself. The skin covering your clitoris (the hood) and the surrounding tissue (your labia) is even more sensitive than elsewhere…it doesn’t get a lot of sun or exposure. So if the tough soles of your feet can get sore from too much pressure, just imagine how your clitoris feels. While blisters, cuts or other injuries in this area are uncommon from masturbation alone, it’s not impossible. If you’re starting to feel sore during or after vibrator use, give the vibe a little rest.
  • Choose wisely. As Em & Lo mentioned earlier this week, vibrators, like other sex toys, are not exactly regulated by the FDA. Just because something is for sale, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. Also, a vibrator might be too powerful for your clitoris, or too big for your vagina…
  • Stay topical. In fact, most vibrators are meant for external use only (even if that’s not clear on the packaging). So definitely exercise caution when penetrating your vagina or anus with a vibrator that might not be designed for that purpose.
  • Don’t push through pain. We use vibrators to create pleasure, not cause pain (that’s an entirely different post). So if you’re feeling uncomfortable with your vibe, stop. You may be giving your clit too much direct stimulation, or are causing too much friction on the hood or surrounding tissues. Try a different speed, or a different position of the vibrator.
  • When in doubt, see your gyno. Pain in the area of your clitoris might be from vibrator overuse…or it might be something else (like a yeast infection or even herpes).

Have you ever experienced “bad vibrations”?

— Dr. Kate

Dr. Kate is an OB/GYN at one of the largest teaching hospitals in New York City. She also lectures nationally on women’s health issues and conducts research on reproductive health. Check out more of her advice and ask her a question at Gynotalk.com.


  1. I think it’s because another consequence of vibrator’s “novelty” designation is that there’s usually not a lot of effort put into ergonomics.

  2. Better quality vibrators tend to have included warnings about how long a time they should operate. Some of these probably pertain to the potential vibrations for the hand to endure and others regarding overheating. Some vibrators become more prone to overheating as they are wearing down. When I started to use some and had fallen asleep I found I had areas of over heated redness. Other cheaper ones probably meant more as a novelty toy had caused temporary nerve irritation to the hand if used too long. The solutions have been simply to keep a vibrator on for less time and get on with finding areas it is an effective adjunct to reaching an orgasm. Finally you need to put some effort in via being aroused and manipulating it through it’s use. Just assuming it is a matter of picking up the vibrator and switching it on without any mental effort in creating arousal could mean that it would be used too long and too hard causing damage by the time one orgasmed.

  3. Something else to consider: I read a lot of sex blogs and one thing that comes up a couple of times a year is hand and wrist problems. I think it’s because another consequence of vibrator’s “novelty” designation is that there’s usually not a lot of effort put into ergonomics. For instance rabbit-style vibrators that are at least theoretically designed for combined insertion and external vibration put the controls on the bottom so that they’re hard to reach without really contorting your hand. And at least one big fan of Hitachi-style wands complains about numbness in her hand and arm from prolonged use.

    Some of the higher-end/boutique designers are conscientious about it but… the fact that they’re high end prices a lot of potential users out of the market.


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