How familiar are you with your balls?
Are they your ‘ride or die’ or that weird work colleague you are forced to make occasional uncomfortable small talk with at the coffee shop?
Being on better terms with your balls is much easier than you would think.
In fact, a quickie once a month is generally sufficient to be better acquainted. Health professionals will usually refer to this as a ‘testicular self-exam’ or TSE for short. A warm shower is the best way to get your balls in the mood, helping them to hang lower and thus make them a bit easier to access. Firmly but GENTLY roll each of your balls between your thumb and forefinger one at a time, feeling for any odd lumps, bumps, swelling or pain. Both balls should feel firm (but not hard), with a smooth and even surface. Towards the back/underside of each testicle you should be able to feel the epididymis, which should feel like a tightly bound coil of small tubes.
The average ball ranges in size from 15ml (around the size or a large grape) up to 35ml (the size of a small chicken egg). As with most things size is not necessarily a good indicator of how well they function. They prefer slightly cooler conditions (2 degrees cooler than your core body temperature), which is why they hang outside of your body and hang lower in warmer conditions. Your balls aren’t identical twins, it’s normal for one ball to be slightly larger than the other and for one ball to hang slightly lower than the other.
Once you are on friendlier terms with your balls, it is much easier to identify when something doesn’t seem quite right. If you notice something a little off book an appointment with your GP. While it may be a little embarrassing or awkward, it’s important to rule out any malignancy such as testicular cancer (which has a very high survival rate when caught early).
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we look closely at the functioning of the Liver & Kidney organs which govern the genitals and our sexual and reproductive functioning. Stagnation of qi or blood may manifest in testicular nodules, lumps or bumps, while invasion of heat or damp-heat pathogens is generally not easily ignored (think redness, swelling, itching, pain and discharge). As with most things in Chinese Medicine, looking at your health and body holistically is an important part of understanding what is going on (and to guide our treatment to make sure your balls are in top fighting shape)
Good ball health is particularly important from a fertility perspective. If you are trying for a pregnancy, then it is super important to be giving your balls the VIP treatment.
Varicoceles can be incredibly detrimental to fertility and are relatively common (affecting an estimated 15% of men). Essentially it involves the enlargement of veins in the scrotum due to poor blood circulation. You will often be able to feel varicoceles, it is often compared to a ‘bag of worms or spaghetti’. From a Chinese Medicine perspective this is viewed as stasis of blood which we address using acupuncture and blood-moving herbs.
When it comes to fertility the temperature of your balls should not be overlooked.
Excessive heat can damage the DNA of your sperm, reduce the overall number of sperm you are producing, and reduce sperm motility (how fast and effectively your swimmers can move). Steps to ensure that your balls remain at optimal temperature include:
– Ditching the skinny jeans and cycling gear – tight pants hold your balls closer to your body preventing them from descending when they overheat.
– That goes for your underwear too – cotton boxer shorts are ideal for letting your balls swing free
– Sticking to showers – hot baths, saunas & spa pools will boil your balls.
– Detoxing from technology – all electronic devices omit heat, but pay particular attention to avoiding keeping your mobile phone in your front pocket and from working with a laptop on your lap.