The frenulum (or “banjo string”) is a tiny, narrow piece of tissue that runs from the bottom of the penis head (glans) to the bottom of the shaft.
It’s delicate, so even the most innocuous activities could cause it to tear. This includes:
- vigorous masturbation or partner sex
- wearing uncomfortable pants or underwear
- riding a bike
- playing contact sports
- performing physical labor, such as home improvement projects
If happens to you, take a deep breath. Although it likely hurts, this injury rarely causes any long-term complications.
It can usually be treated at home. Here’s what you need to know.
There are a bunch of blood vessels underneath the skin. Light bleeding is completely normal.
Use basic first aid to stop the bleeding:
- Rinse your hands with gentle soap and clean water.
- Place a clean rag or cloth over the tear to halt blood flow.
- Gently rinse the tear and the area around it with clean water and chemical-free, fragrance-free soap. Don’t let soap get in the tear.
- Gently pat the area dry with a fresh cloth or towel.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment to the tear.
- Apply a clean bandage to cover the tear or wrap the area with gauze and medical tape.
- Replace the dressing or bandage at least once a day.
If blood soaks through the bandage within an hour or so, seek immediate medical attention.
Although heavy bleeding is unlikely, getting the correct care is crucial in preventing blood loss and other damage.
The penis is a dense bundle of nerves and receptors, so it’s normal for your torn frenulum to hurt more than you might expect.
The pain may feel hard to describe — it’s been characterized as a sharp, throbbing, concentrated pain near the tip of the penis.
The level of discomfort is generally unrelated to the seriousness of the actual injury.
In other words, the pain — even if it lasts for a few days — doesn’t mean that your penis is damaged forever or that the injury is getting worse.
Oftentimes, any initial bleeding or intense pain will fade in a matter of hours.
You may feel a dull, aching pain for a few days afterward as the injury heals.
Depending on how severe the tear is, this pain may last for a week or so as the tissues heal themselves.
If the injury becomes infected, your symptoms may worsen and go on to include unusual penile discharge, foul odor, and fever.
These symptoms could last for a week or more if the infection isn’t treated.
An untreated infection can also spread to other parts of your penis and cause more widespread, severe pain.
Yes! Cuts, scrapes, and tears will generally heal well on their own if you:
- treat them quickly
- keep them dressed with fresh bandages
- rinse and gently pat them dry regularly
- avoid vigorous activity that bumps or scrapes the penis
Here’s what you should do to make sure the tear heals quickly and properly:
- Wash, rinse, and bandage the tear right away.
- Wear loose, comfortable underwear and pants, jeans, dresses, or skirts until the tear has mostly healed.
- When you’re ready to resume sexual activity, use natural, water-based lube to make sure it doesn’t tear again.
See a doctor or other healthcare provider if the tear worsens or the pain persists for more than a week.
To make sure your frenulum heals well and fully:
- Don’t engage in sexual activity until bleeding and initial pain has stopped.
- Don’t engage in any rough activity until the tear is fully healed.
- Don’t leave the tear uncovered and expose it to possible infection.
- Don’t put on any condoms or similar protection until the tear has healed.
- Don’t use any oil-based lube with artificial ingredients on your bare penis, as this may sting or damage the tear.
- Don’t immerse or soak the cut in water until it has completely healed.
See a doctor or other healthcare provider if you notice one or more of the following:
- a tear that keeps opening with even light sexual activity or exercise
- unusual redness around the tear, especially if it starts to spread
- swelling at or around the tear
- warmth around the tear
- increasing pain or tenderness around the tear
- pus or discharge oozing out of the tear
- loss of sensation in your penis
- fever, even if low grade
- burning when you pee
- going pee more often than usual
- cloudy or bloody urine
- cramping in your abdomen
If the tear is mild, your doctor may simply clean and bandage the tear.
They’ll provide instructions on changing the bandages and keeping it clean until it heals.
Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic ointment to help the tissues heal and protect them from possible bacterial or viral infection.
They may also prescribe oral antibiotics if you’re experiencing mild infection symptoms.
If the injury was severe, your doctor may request a follow-up appointment.
They’ll check to see if tear is healing properly and confirm that you aren’t at risk for any complications from the injury or infection.
First things first: Repeat the same steps of cleaning, bandaging, and caring for the tear until it heals.
If it’s tearing after sexual activity or other vigorous physical activity, you should make a concentrated effort to go easier or be more gentle.
This can help ensure that your penis isn’t exposed to continued injury from trauma or from abrasion from sexual intercourse or clothing.
If the same area continues to tear, it’s important to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.
They can review your medical history and determine whether surgery is needed to prevent further injury.
Your provider may recommend surgery if:
- the tear keeps happening, even with treatment or behavioral changes that put less stress on your penile tissues
- the tear gets infected and the tissues are damaged
- surrounding penile tissues get damaged or infected
- irreversible damage is done to penile nerves or blood vessels
To do this, your surgeon will:
- Give you anesthesia to keep you unconscious during the surgery.
- Make a small cut on the frenulum near the penis head.
- Stretch the frenulum tissue apart in a diamond shape to loosen the area and make it less prone to tearing.
- Stitch the tissue back together so that it’s wider and more flexible after it heals.
This procedure is considered outpatient, so you can have it done and go home the same day.
You’ll need to wear a bandage over the site until it falls off, and the stitches will typically dissolve or fall out after a few weeks.
Here are a few aftercare tips:
- Take over-the-counter pain medication for any discomfort.
- Gently pat dry your penis every time you pee.
- Remove your bandage if it doesn’t fall off after a day or if you get it damp with pee.
- Put a little silicone-based lubricant on your penis head to make sure it doesn’t stick to your clothes.
- If you have a foreskin, pull it back each day so that the area properly heals.
- Don’t immerse the area in water for at least 1 to 2 days after the surgery.
The area will fully heal after about two months.
You should avoid masturbating or other penis-focused sexual activity until it completely heals.
You can usually treat a minor tear at home. They heal fairly quickly — usually within a week or so.
You don’t need to see a doctor unless you’re experiencing heavy bleeding, signs of infection, or persistent pain.