July 17, 2020

What To Do If You Experience Pain During Sex, But Want It To Last Longer

Sex shouldn’t be about putting up with pain but about finding pathways to pleasure despite the hurdles.
Written by
Louise Bourchier, MPH
Published on
July 17, 2020
Updated on
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If you experience pain during sex, whether occasionally or chronically, then you are not alone. Pain during sex is common, but not something you should have to tolerate. There are a number of ways to reduce pain and maximize pleasure. There are various causes for pain during sex, and so there are different ways to manage it: It could just require a simple change in your habits, or it might require medical care to resolve.

9 Tips to make sex hurt less if you want it to last longer

One of the big challenges with painful sex is that the pain can disrupt your ability to enjoy the pleasure and connection with a partner. If you often experience painful penetration, then anticipating the pain before you even have sex can also detract from your intimate life and reduce your libido. Fortunately, there are a range of options you can try to reduce the pain so that the sex to last longer. 

1. Use plenty of lube

If you’re experiencing painful friction in the vagina or on the vulva during sex, try a good lubricant. Apply as much lube as you like to keep things slippery. If you have already been using lube but are still feeling the rub, try shifting to a silicone lubricant so the slickness lasts longer. Make sure to reapply as often as needed.

2. Try different condom or lube brands

If you’re experiencing pain or irritation during sex, there’s a chance you could be allergic to latex or to the lube you’re using. Try using non-latex condoms and see if they feel any different. Look for a lube like Sliquid or Good Clean Love that is free of irritating chemicals. It’s worth a try.

3. Go slow

This one may seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: If you’re feeling sensitive or sore down there, slowing down can help. Maybe you and your partner like the idea of rough sex, or extended love making sessions, but sometimes your body can’t match your fantasies. Remember, you can still use hot dirty talk to explore those fantasies together, even if the actual sex you’re having is more gentle. You might find that after going slower, pain will subside and you’ll be able to ramp up the intensity again if you want.

4. Change sex positions

It could be that the positions you’re using aren’t right for you: maybe penetration is too deep, maybe your cervix is getting too much impact, or maybe the angle is putting too much pressure on a specific part of your vagina. Where you’re at in your menstrual cycle can also make a difference — during some times of the month positions that you usually enjoy can feel uncomfortable. If you’re experiencing pain, or on your period, try different sex postions. For example, instead of doggy or knees-back-missionary (where penetration can go quite deep), try lying side by side, or by riding on top so you can control the depth and angle of penetration yourself.

5. Switch up activities or take a break

If you want to keep things hot and heavy, but pain is putting a dampener on penetration, try switching to oral sex or hand sex for a while. Grab a toy and pleasure your partner, or your own clit. Taking a side trip to do some 69’ing or to play with a buttplug, for example, can maintain the intensity and connection but give your vagina a break. 

Speaking of breaks, taking some time out from sex is also a great idea. Why not pause for a drink or snack, take a shower together, or spend 10 to 15 min massaging each other? After a break you might be more comfortable receiving penetration again.

6. Reduce penetration depth (try the OhNut)

If you feel pain from deep penetration (which is common for people with endometriosis, for example), then finding positions and techniques that don’t go too deep will be important for your comfort. Lying face down, or on your side, and receiving vaginal penetration from behind is a good option as penetration doesn’t usually go as deep with these positions. Controlling the depth of penetration yourself can also help, for example, if you sit on top of your partner, or if they kneel still and you move your hips to guide penetration depth. 

The OhNut is a toy designed specifically for those who experience pain with deeper penetration. The soft rings sit around the base of the penis, or dildo, and act like a buffer to prevent penetration going further than you want. If pain, or fear of pain, has made you dial back the intensity of your sex, the OhNut can help because even with more vigorous thrusting the depth is still limited by the spongy rings.

7. See a healthcare provider

If you’re experiencing regular or severe pain, it’s best to see a healthcare provider to diagnose the issue and help you find ways to manage the pain. Dealing with the pain will be different depending on the condition, for example managing endometriosis will be different from vaginismus, and managing pain after childbirth will be different from managing pain after menopause, which is why it’s important to get the correct diagnosis.

8. Pelvic floor physical therapy and dilators

If your pain is caused by vaginismus or other issues with the pelvic muscles, then a pelvic floor physical therapist can help. They can provide exercises to help train the muscles, and may recommend dilators to help the vagina to relax when receiving penetration. If your vaginismus is related to past trauma, then seeing a counselor or sex therapist may also be beneficial.

9. Hormonal creams and medications after menopause

After menopause, the hormonal balance in the body changes. The tissues of the vagina can become thinner and more fragile, natural lubrication can reduce, and the vagina can also shrink in size, all of which can make sex painful. If you’re dealing with these issues, but want to keep enjoying penetration, then step one is to get a good lubricant. Step two is to consider vaginal creams or medications that replace some of the hormones. Hormonal treatments are not safe or suitable for everyone and come with side effects, so it’s important to discuss all the options with your doctor before deciding, but for some people, these creams or medications can help with vaginal comfort during sex.

Should I try numbing gel or spray? 

Some people try numbing gel or spray to reduce pain, but these are not a good idea for three reasons:

1. Numbing the sensation means also numbing your pleasure. This makes orgasm more difficult to achieve. 

2. Numbing the pain can lead to injury because you can’t feel when damage is being done.

3. Sex should be about both people’s pleasure, not about tolerating pain for your partner’s sake. Numbing prioritizes the penetrating partner’s pleasure over the person receiving. 

The bottom line 

Just as there are a number of reasons why penetrative sex can hurt, there are also a number of solutions. For your first-line options: use lube, change positions, switch activities, and take a break. You might find that’s all you need to reduce your discomfort. 

If the pain persists, is frequent, or severe, it’s time to get a medical assessment. There are a range of options to help make sex less painful if you have endometriosis, vaginismus or another condition that causes discomfort. But even if you’re dealing with a chronic condition, everyone is entitled to pleasure. Sex shouldn’t be about putting up with pain but about finding pathways to pleasure despite the hurdles.

It’s important to remember that you are not the only person dealing with these problems. You might find it useful to get online and connect with support groups that can help you feel less alone in your struggles. And as always, communication with your partner is essential for good sex. Dealing with pain, especially recurrent pain, can be frustrating, and keeping conversations open and honest will help you get through the challenges together. You might even discover new options for pleasure along the way.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Louise Bourchier is a sex educator and sex researcher with 8 years experience in the field. She teaches about sexual health, sexual pleasure, and communication in relationships through workshops, live-streams, and with written content. Using a sex-positive approach, a dash of humour, and bag full of fun props, Louise’s style of sex education for adults is not what you got in high school! Since 2011 she has taught over a hundred workshops to a wide range of audiences, from university students, to refugees, to medical professionals, to adult store clientele. She has a Masters of Public Health, and is currently a PhD candidate.

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