What is death grip syndrome?

What Is Death Grip Syndrome?

Rose MacDowell

Maybe you’ve heard about it, and you wonder if it’s affecting you. Or you’ve noticed that you can’t have an orgasm unless you masturbate with a firm grasp – and even then it takes longer than it once did. We’re talking about death grip syndrome, or desensitization of the nerves in the penis caused by masturbating with an excessively hard grip

Who gets death grip syndrome, and how quickly can it happen? How do you prevent it? Can you cure death grip syndrome once you have it? Keep reading for answers to all of your questions, plus a list of strokers that can help protect your penis and keep it healthy.  

What Is Death Grip Syndrome? 

Death grip syndrome – or DGS – describes a loss of sensitivity in the penis from an overly firm grasp during masturbation. Over time, a hard grip can cause microinjuries to the nerves of the penis, leading to erectile dysfunction, reduced sensation, and even scarring.  

Symptoms of DGS can include:

  • Delayed orgasm when masturbating or with a partner
  • The need to grip your penis harder to maintain an erection or ejaculate
  • The need to masturbate without lubricant for maximum friction
  • Feeling “numb” or less stimulated when you masturbate more gently or have sex with a partner
  • Gripping your penis or masturbating to the point of injury 
  • The inability to get an erection or orgasm without masturbating, even with a partner
  • Finding masturbation more pleasurable than sex  

Though “death grip syndrome” is not (yet) a recognized medical condition, the anecdotal evidence is mounting. In 2002, the rate of erectile dysfunction in men under 40 was 2-3%. After free internet porn became readily available around 2008, the incidence has increased to as high as 30%

Given that the vast majority of people who watch internet porn masturbate, a possible connection between excessive rough masturbation and ED is hard to ignore. Rates of severe ED in young men, who are more likely than older men to masturbate, are now higher than they are in men over 50. 

What is death grip syndrome?

What Causes Death Grip Syndrome?

What actually happens during rough masturbation? And why can it have a negative effect on the health of your penis? 

The penis evolved for the relatively soft, yielding environment of the vagina, which also provides lubrication. Unless you accidentally bend the penis during intercourse, vaginal penetration doesn’t cause the injuries seen with DGS, nor does penetration of the mouth and anus. No bodily orifice can squeeze the penis with the same force as a hand, or stroke it as quickly.  

The effects of death grip can happen in two ways:

  1. Your member can become habituated to forceful stimulation. Even if the nerves aren’t injured, they may be accustomed to hard, fast stroking. The softer, slower sensations of sex with a partner may not feel stimulating enough, resulting in erection problems or delayed ejaculation.   
  2. The nerves in your member can be injured by a firm grip over time, causing reduced sensitivity and microinjuries to nerves and superficial blood vessels. A hard grip can also reduce circulation and bruise or abrade the skin. 

Remember: the penis is not designed to withstand excessive pressure. While friction is generally safe, a tight grip can restrict blood flow and create damage you may not see or feel – yet. 

How Can I Prevent Death Grip Syndrome?

You can help prevent potential damage to your penis by masturbating with less force and less frequency. To reduce your chances of DGS, try the following techniques: 

Avoid using your hand to masturbate

It can be difficult to tell how much pressure you apply to your penis with your hand, and if it might be causing microinjuries. The best way to prevent death grip syndrome is to avoid using your hand when you masturbate, particularly if you’ve noticed early signs of death grip syndrome like delayed ejaculation or feeling less stimulated with a partner.   

Masturbate using a stroker 

A stroker can help control the tightness of your grip during masturbation. A stroker can feel very stimulating, but is less likely than your hand to exert excessive pressure on the penis. Many strokers have a soft, cushiony interior lining that feels similar to the inside of the body or mouth

The best strokers for preventing or treating DGS have a harder outer casing that keeps the hand from squeezing too hard. Scroll down for a full list of our picks for the best strokers for death grip syndrome. 

New to strokers and masturbators? Check out our Complete Guide To Strokers 

Masturbate less often

We’re unabashed proponents of self-pleasure, but the health of your penis comes first. If you’re concerned about DGS, limit masturbation to once a day or less, and be aware of warning signs like delayed ejaculation or feeling the need to squeeze more tightly. 

Use lubricant

No matter how you masturbate, always use lubricant to help protect your penis. Though lubricant on its own can’t prevent or cure death grip, it can reduce friction and increase glide, making microinjuries, redness, and abrasions less likely. 

Not sure which lube is right for you? Check out How To Choose A Lube

Is death grip permanent?

Is Death Grip Permanent?

Most of the time, the injuries that result from death grip can heal. Sometimes, long-term damage from death grip can result in permanent scarring, a condition known as Peyronie’s Disease. Peyronie’s Disease is becoming more common, and is rising in men under 40. Studies on the reason for the increase in Peyronie’s Disease are scant, but frequent masturbation with a firm grasp may be a contributing factor.     

Peyronie’s Disease may also be caused by:

  • Injury to the penis during intercourse
  • Trauma or injury to the penis from sports
  • Family history
  • Connective tissue disorders

Though erectile dysfunction is related to Peyronie’s Disease, it’s not clear if ED contributes to Peyronie’s or if Peyronie’s might be caused by ED. If erections or masturbation become painful or you notice that your penis has a new curve, see a urologist for a checkup. 

Can I Cure Death Grip Syndrome?

First, don’t diagnose yourself with death grip syndrome. See a doctor if you notice changes in your erections or ability to perform with a partner, or if you have trouble ejaculating. 

Once you rule out any underlying medical issues, take stock of the way you typically masturbate. A consistent change in masturbation habits can help your nerves recover, and “reset” the type of stimulation your body expects. 

It can take weeks to months for your nerves and brain to fully recover from the effects of DGS. Remember – the best way to cure death grip syndrome is to prevent it in the first place.  

How to cure death grip syndrome once you notice the signs? 

Take a break

Take a hiatus to let your penis recover. A few weeks without masturbation or intercourse can allow small injuries to heal. Give your nerves a chance to rest without consistent pressure and stimulation.  

Use a stroker

When you return to masturbation, use a stroker instead of your hand. Check out our list of the best strokers for death grip.

Use lubricant

Always use a good lubricant when you masturbate to help maximize glide and reduce unnecessary friction. 

Use a light grip 

Focus on gentle stimulation. Don’t squeeze your hand or the stroker, and aim for the kind of soft-but-stimulating friction you experience during sex with a partner.  

Avoid watching porn

Porn triggers the release of large amounts of the feel-good chemical dopamine, also called “the happiness hormone.” The dopamine rush associated with porn can make it difficult to use healthier masturbation techniques, or control how often you masturbate. 

For more about the possible link between porn and death grip, see our FAQs below.   

How to prevent death grip syndrome 


Can women get death grip syndrome?

Though the nerves of the clitoris and vagina aren’t at risk of damage from masturbation, they can become habituated to vibrating toys, particularly high-intensity power wands. Different or gentler forms of stimulation might feel less arousing, or it may be difficult to climax without strong vibration. 

To keep from getting accustomed to one type of sensation, try switching things up with different toys or partnered play to keep your body guessing.  

How much masturbation is safe?

Masturbation is safe as long as it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on your penis, mental health, or relationships. If you masturbate multiple times daily and are concerned about the physical or emotional impact, cut back to a frequency that feels healthier for you. Be aware of the warning signs of death grip syndrome, and don’t use your hand to masturbate if you tend to squeeze your penis tightly.  

Masturbation can be a healthy way to reduce stress, experience pleasure, and express your sexuality, as long as you take care of your penis and masturbate responsibly.    

Can I get death grip syndrome if I don’t watch porn?

Death grip syndrome is caused by an overly firm grip on the penis, and can happen even if you don’t watch porn.  

Is it safe to watch porn if I don’t use my hand to masturbate? 

It's hard to say. Porn and masturbation tend to go together, which is why death grip syndrome typically occurs in penis-owners who watch porn. But beyond the possible connection with DGS, some people find that porn-watching feels compulsive, or worry that they have little control over it. 

Porn may be addictive for some of us. Studies show that the reward centers of the brain in compulsive porn users light up when they watch porn, just as the brains of drug addicts do when they use drugs. 

Porn may change how you view sex and impact your attraction to real-life partners. Some people believe that long-term porn use has impacted their ability to perform, or negatively affected their sexual reponses. 

Consider reducing your use of porn if:

  • You want to avoid or recover from death grip syndrome
  • You’ve noticed a decline in your performance with partners since you started watching porn
  • You prefer porn to sex with a partner and want to change that
  • You’re concerned that you watch porn too often, or watch it compulsively
  • You watch porn to comfort yourself instead of addressing feelings of loneliness or stress
  • You hide your porn use from your partner, or lie when asked about it
  • You neglect your health, job, friends, or education so you can watch porn
  • You’re ashamed of the type of porn you watch, or feel it doesn’t reflect your values

Best strokers for death grip syndrome

Best Strokers For Death Grip Syndrome

The ideal stroker for DGS is one that doesn’t require a hard grip to feel stimulating. Here are some of the best strokers and masturbators for death grip syndrome in the most popular categories. 

Best overall stroker

Tenga Flip Zero Series The Flip Zero Series gets top marks across the board for safety, pleasurable suction, and dense, stimulating texture. The hard outer casing helps to prevent an overly firm grip, and it flips open for easy cleaning and drying.

How to choose between the Flip Zero and Flip Zero Gravity? The Gravity has more texture at the entrance, making it a great pick if you like short, fast strokes or have a smaller anatomy.   

Best vibrating stroker

Fun Factory Manta The Manta brings the bone-shaking power of a vibrating wand to a stroker. This waterproof toy is made from body-safe silicone that flexes to fit the penis without an overly firm grip. It's also easy to clean, travel-friendly, and more durable than strokers made from TPE

Though the Manta is a phenomenal solo toy, we also love it for amping up the stimulation during blow jobs. With 6 vibration levels and 6 patterns, this stroker has something for everyone. 

Best blowjob stroker

Zolo Blow Gun Suction Masturbator This adjustable auto-stroking device is all about deep, feels-real suction. With an intricately textured sleeve, 10 stimulation settings, and optional erotic sounds, the Blow Gun delivers the total experience.

Best of all? Unlike some strokers, the Blow Gun can easily accommodate your entire shaft.

Best budget blowjob stroker

Boners Vibrating Blowjob Masturbator Though it doesn't take the full shaft, the Boners Blowjob Masturbator delivers a lot of pleasure for the price. This body-safe silicone device targets the head and frenulum of the penis with a soft, mouth-shaped entrance and 10 powerful vibe intensities.  

Best app-controlled stroker

Lovense Max 2 If a life-like feel is what you're after, the Lovense Max 2 is your stroker. 360-degree contractions surround the penis in authentic, squishy stimulation that's second only to the real thing. The hard casing protects the penis from death grip, while the internal sleeve massages, strokes, and sucks. 

And that isn't all. This bestselling masturbator can be operated from anywhere using the free Lovense phone app, making it a perfect pick for long-distance lovers.  

Best hands-free stroker

Lovense Gush A hands-free stroker in a compact package? No, you're not dreaming. The Lovense Gush stimulates the heck out of your penis without help from your hand and it's made from durable body-safe silicone. If you want to prevent or treat death grip syndrome, skip the Gush's optional tightening band and let the stroker do the work. 

Like the Max 2, the app-controlled Gush can be operated by a partner from across the room or across the world.