Although a frenulum tear should not lead to any long-term complications, it can be very painful at the time.
The frenulum, or “banjo string,” is the small ridge of tissue that connects the head of the penis to the shaft. It also acts as a natural retractor of the foreskin over the glans.
It is an area with lots of nerves, so it is extremely sensitive. A short frenulum can lead to problems, such as difficulty pulling back the foreskin.
In this article, learn about what to do if a tear occurs.
As this area is very sensitive, sharp pain is likely. However, light bleeding is not a cause for concern.
To treat the injury at home with some basic first aid:
- Ensure that the hands are clean, by washing them with soap and water.
- To stop the blood flow, apply a cloth to the damaged area.
- Use water to clean the whole area around the injury.
- Gently dry the wound with a sterile piece of cloth.
The bleeding should not last very long after this initial treatment. Treating the wound immediately will also help prevent infection.
Further steps, under medical guidance, can include:
- applying an antibiotic cream
- covering the tear with a clean bandage or Band-Aid
- checking and replacing the dressing every day
- continuing with antibiotic treatment as recommended
Since frenulum tears are usually short-term injuries that heal by themselves, a person should not panic if their frenulum tears.
Because the penis is an incredibly sensitive area with lots of receptors and nerves, a frenulum tear can feel particularly painful. The level of pain may depend on the severity and length of the tear.
Near the head of the penis, the pain is often sharp and throbbing. After treating the wound, however, this should fade within a couple of hours.
As the wound heals, a dull, achy pain could remain for up to a week. If the pain symptoms last longer than this, it may be best to consult a healthcare professional.
This kind of injury often heals by itself if a person keeps it clean and maintains gentle treatment.
A bacterial or viral infection could complicate the healing process, however. Symptoms of infection include penile secretions of pus on the tear, redness of the skin, and an unpleasant smell.
Depending on the severity and length of the tear, an immediate medical consultation may be required. A doctor can clean and bandage the tear and provide further advice on treatment.
A person should consider a trip to the emergency department if bleeding is excessive and does not slow down after a few hours. In some cases, stitching the wound is necessary.
If the cut does not heal after a few days or continues to bleed excessively, it is best to consult a doctor. They can prescribe an oral antibiotic if there are symptoms of infection.
Some symptoms of infection may include:
- a tear that refuses to heal and keeps opening
- swelling or redness around the injury
- continued pain, tenderness, or warmth around the tear
- redness, pain, pus or discharge coming from the wound
- loss of sensation in the penis area
- a burning sensation when urinating
- urinating more often than usual
The frenulum is susceptible to tearing repeatedly. After one tear, white scar tissue can form, shortening the frenulum and making the area less flexible.
To prevent it from happening again, it is important to take the following precautions:
- Maintain treatment, keeping it clean and bandaged for protection and to give it the best chance of healing on its own.
- Try to abstain from masturbation and sexual intercourse for a few weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. If there is sexual activity, use water-based lubrication.
- Avoid using condoms until the wound has healed, as they can cause friction and further damage the tear.
- Avoid sports and strenuous activity for a few weeks after sustaining the tear.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing around the groin to prevent friction.
Although damage can occur nearly anywhere on the penis, the frenulum is particularly vulnerable. It is a tight fold of skin and quite thin, so there are many ways that a frenulum can tear.
Rough sex or vigorous masturbation
Sexual activity can lead to penis damage. The erect penis has blood flowing into the arteries, making it less flexible. Rough sex creates friction and heat on the skin of the penis, leaving it more susceptible to wear and tear.
Repetitive hand movements of vigorous masturbation over such a delicate area can lead to tearing or irritating the frenulum. The frenulum can also tear after coming into contact with jewelry, such as a ring.
Prolonged or repetitive cycling can cause a frenulum tear. The saddle shape affects penile blood flow.
Cycling uphill can potentially cause more damage to the artery supplying blood to the penis. Horse riding can have the same effect.
Contact sports, such as rugby, can increase the risk of sustaining bodily injuries in general. Any sport that involves jumping or sprinting may also increase the risk of frenulum tears.
Wearing protection around the genitals, such as a cup, can help prevent injuries to the frenulum during sports activities.
Physical labor, such as working on a building site, can lead to accidents, falls, or groin damage.
Wearing tight pants and underwear
Always try to wear loose-fitting pants and underwear. Tight pants can cause pressure and friction in the groin area.
The more freedom around the penis, the lower the risk of tears and injury.
The trouser zipper
Getting the penis caught in a trouser zipper is painful and can pinch and tear the skin.
Trimming or removing pubic hair using a razor or a shaver can sometimes cause nicks and tears to the penis or groin area.
A surgical procedure called frenuloplasty may be necessary if the tear does not heal over time or frequently tears. This procedure helps lengthen the frenulum. It is a minor outpatient operation under local or general anesthetic.
Other symptoms — such as an infected tear, damaged tissue, or an infection in the surrounding penile tissues — can also cause surgery to become necessary.
The frenuloplasty procedure involves a surgeon making a cut across the scar tissue. They will place self-dissolving stitches in the opposite direction to the wound, helping lengthen the frenulum. Then, they will usually wrap the penis in a loose bandage that falls off on its own.
In a 2016 clinical study, none of the 50 male participants felt any pain after the procedure.
Full recovery time is around 1–2 months.
Tears similar to frenulum tears include:
Minor cuts and tears can also occur in the vagina. These tears often heal quickly but can cause discomfort for a couple of days.
Severe cuts or tears require medical attention, especially if they do not heal despite proper self-care.
Some causes of vaginal tears include:
- sexual activity
- hair removal
To treat a vaginal tear, always wash the hands with soap and running water. Wash the affected area daily, but avoid soaking it.
A person can take over-the-counter pain relief to reduce discomfort. However, they should consult a healthcare provider if the pain persists.
Labial frenulum tears
The labial frenulum is the thin piece of tissue in the mouth that connects the gums to the upper lip. Injuries and tears are possible to the labial frenulum. This injury is common in children.
It usually heals without treatment. However, as with a penile frenulum tear, it will require monitoring for the risk of infection.
Severe labial frenulum tears may require medical intervention.
The penis is a very sensitive area, and any impact or damage is often extremely painful. However, home treatment can help a frenulum tear heal relatively quickly.
See a healthcare provider if the bleeding continues, if symptoms do not ease, or if the area becomes infected.
It is important not to rush recovery and to protect the frenulum from further damage. It should heal completely in a matter of weeks.