Why Do We Enjoy the Sensation of Something Vibrating?

A psychologist and a sex therapist team up to explain why shaking really, really fast feels so good.


In this edition of It’s Not a Stupid Question, we’re looking at vibrating—a sensation many of us have experienced at the hands of a massage chair or perhaps something a little more personal. But what is it about jiggling that feels simultaneously soothing and stimulating at the same time? Family and Relationships Therapists Aida Vazin says it’s more than just physical—it’s psychological, too.

“Massage chairs and baby rockers essentially mimic the womb. That’s because, when you’re inside your mother, her organs and breathing cause you to vibrate,” Vazin says. “So when you sit down in a vibrating massage chair, it brings you back to those soothing prenatal moments.” That explains why a brief squat in a quivering recliner can bring a man from ten to zero on the stress scale; how anxious can you really be when you’re subconsciously reminiscing about floating around in your original personal hot tub?

As for why vibrating can feel more euphoric on the skin, that gets a little more complicated. As explained by Dr. Myrtle Wilhite on her site, www.sexualityresources.com, when a vibrating object comes into contact with the body, it applies sheer stress (that is, constant movement back and forth) to the blood vessels in the area. That non-stop shaking causes those vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow and engorging the area with excess blood—a bodily response that signals for the brain to release pleasure chemicals like endorphins.

The reason vibration is especially delightful below the belt is because it “stimulates nerves both on the surface and deep within the penis, clitoris and vulva,” explains Tristan Weedmark of vibrator manufacturer, We-Vibe. “Certain nerves and receptors are especially sensitive to vibration and, once stimulated, these sensor inputs are transmitted through the spinal cord and higher centers to produce sexual arousal.” Or, in simpler terms, the nerves in our naughty bits are extra prone to triggering an endorphin release.

In addition to making us feel like we’re on top of the world, endorphins have pain-relieving qualities equivalent to morphine, which is why vibration is often used in massage therapy—it causes our body to release chemicals that soothe all those aches and pains we garner throughout the day. That’s also why you might not notice an injury acquired during some enthusiastic (and vibration-filled) cuddling with your significant other until after the fact. Those are some “Good Vibrations,” indeed.