You might know “blue balls” – that dull, throbbing, aching feeling in your gonads when you’re turned on but can’t quite bust that all-important nut, like an inefficient squirrel. Is it serious? No. Is it easy to relieve? Yes.

Ejaculating can do the trick (or so we hear), either solo or with a partner. Or, you can try distracting yourself to the point where you’re not aroused anymore.

Some healthcare professionals might use the term “epididymal hypertension” to describe blue balls. But, in all honesty, they may be wrong. There aren’t really any studies to support the idea that the discomfort comes from high blood pressure in your testicles. In fact, there’s not much research on this topic at all.

Read on to have all your “painful testicles” questions answered (as far as the limited research will allow) and myths busted. Hey, at least you’ll get to bust something, right?

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Audrey Shtecinjo/Stocksy United

Easing the pain of blue balls is usually pretty easy.

Ejaculation

If you’re experiencing blue balls in the presence of a consenting sexual partner, finishing the job and reaching orgasm will ease symptoms. If there’s no such partner nearby, consider one of the following:

  • masturbating to completion
  • choking the chimichanga
  • burping the worm
  • consulting Professor Ivana Jerkov
  • visiting Dr. Palm and their five siblings
  • realizing all mean the same thing
  • going back to the first point and just doing that instead

Distraction

If you’ve got blue balls and don’t have a safe, easy, or legal route to instant gratification, distracting yourself from arousal can ease the soreness. Have a cold shower, go for a run, read a (nonerotic) book — do whatever it takes to get your mind off your boner.

Pain relief

Blue balls are not serious, and you probably won’t need pain relief. Over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen might help, although your erection is likely to go away before the pills kick in.

In rare cases where the pain is more serious, applying a warm compress to your testicles (compressticles?) can offer relief.

Well, here’s the thing: No one really knows. Finding research on the topic has been something of a ballache.

In terms of research in reliable journals, there’s just one study — and it’s 21 years old. (To give you some idea of how old that is, that’s the year after the release of “The Matrix,” and that whole movie now looks like a bad Marilyn Manson music vid.)

This was a case study (of one patient) and there was a bunch of backlash upon publication. Because it sucks, frankly. And even this study suggests that the researchers contacted a bunch of their urology pals and found that they’d only heard of blue balls anecdotally, and certainly not as part of formal training.

The study authors put forward a theory that “perhaps” blue balls can happen due to pressure that builds up after slow draining of the veins in the testicles when the veins in the pelvis are also wider (which they will be during your industry-standard erection).

But it’s best to treat any sentence beginning with “perhaps” with extreme caution. We’re left with a theory, and that’s it — ironically leaving us unfulfilled and without a happy ending. (The circle of life, right?)

We know that certain masturbation methods like edging, where arousal is kept up for as long as possible without a climax, make the pain more likely. But few men will have trouble with blue balls as part of regular sexual activity.

There are a lot of myths surrounding blue balls out there — a phlurry of phallic phalsehoods and phurry tales. That’s because there’s not really a medical position on blue balls.

Will my balls really turn blue?

There’s no evidence that supports this. So you can throw your balls’ Blue Man Group audition tape in the trash.

Is it dangerous to have blue balls for too long?

No.

Experiencing pain and discomfort in that most precious of locations isn’t exactly fantastic. But the pain goes away quickly and is mild compared to other conditions. If you experience testicular torsion (where they get tangled up), for example, you’ll know about it!

Is it only males who get blue balls?

Blue balls, of course, only happen to those with… well… balls. Those with female genitalia might experience vasocongestion (“blue vulva,” if you will) when blood flows toward the clitoris and vulva during arousal. Again, symptoms fade once blood flow returns to normal.

Blue balls only tend to concern sexual arousal and frustration. If your fellas are hurting and you’re not currently horny, there might be another reason for discomfort in your balls.

Remember, blue balls typically presents as mild pain and discomfort. If the pain is more severe, you might be dealing with one of these alternative culprits:

Diabetic neuropathy in the groin

Diabetic neuropathy happens when high blood sugar levels cause nerve damage in people with diabetes. This can happen at various different spots around the body and causes numbness or pain. If this happens around your groin, you might mistake it for blue balls.

Epididymitis

When the tube at the back of your testicles gets swollen and painful, usually due to infection, that’s epididymitis. Again, it happens without sexual arousal and can present other symptoms. If you see a colored discharge from the tip of your schlong, talk with a doctor.

Kidney stones

If you’re feeling a burning sensation when you pee or seeing blood in your urine, kidney stones might be the cause of your testicular pain. Nausea and vomiting are other symptoms — ones you wouldn’t experience if blue balls were the problem.

Mumps

Mumps normally develops during childhood, but some symptoms of mumps in adults might be confused with blue balls. Tender, sore testicles are possible during mumps, but these will be accompanied by other symptoms that let you know you’re dealing with something more serious, such as:

Orchitis

Inflammation of one or both testicles, orchitis, can feel like blue balls. An STI or mumps are often behind orchitis, and it’s also associated with epididymitis (it’s epididymo-orchitis if you have both, lucky you!). But orchitis is its own distinct thing.

Sexually transmitted or urinary tract infections

It’s not just the sexually frustrated who get to have all the “aching balls” fun. STIs and UTIs can also be causes of pain in the groin, although UTIs are rarer in men. Your regular sexual health checkup (you’re getting those… right?) can let you know if this is the issue.

Testicular cancer

Soreness or dull, aching pain in the balls *can* be signs of testicular cancer (but, more commonly, it’s just the notorious lump that gives away testicular cancer — it doesn’t often hurt).

Checking your balls for lumps after a hot bath or shower (when they’re at their maximum hang) is a good habit to get into.

Tight pants

Seriously, the skinny jeans craze of the early 2010s has a lot to answer for. Keeping your meat and potatoes cramped up in tight pants can make them sore. Let your people go, set them free, and bring the kilt back into fashion if you have to. Your balls will thank you.

Blue balls probably aren’t anything serious. Sure, the disappointment of not busting a nut when you thought you were gonna can put your little soldiers and their artillery in a bad mood. But they’re not going to lose the war over it, so don’t worry too much.

However, sexual health, in general, isn’t a joking matter. Knowing the difference between sexual frustration and something more serious is a question of getting in tune with your own body.

Check your balls for lumps after a warm shower, practice self-care, and remind yourself what feeling good is like. Armed with that self-awareness, testicular serenity can be yours to enjoy.