Fact No. 1
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Pain during sex is unfortunately quite common. That is not to say that it’s normal—pain is a sign that something needs your attention—but that pain is not rare in the bedroom. Nearly three in four women experience painful sex at some point in their lives. And, while it is more common among people with vaginas, people of any gender and genitals can experience dyspareunia (the technical word for painful sex).

There are a number of possible reasons why sex might be painful. Pelvic floor dysfunction is one such possible causes: If the pelvic floor is overly weak or overly tight it can cause pain during sex, especially during penetration.

Vaginismus: Pain With Vaginal Penetration

Vaginismus is a condition where vaginal muscles are overly tight, causing pain during penetration. When anything is inserted into the vagina, whether that’s a tampon, finger, or penis, the muscles spasm painfully. For some people, the condition may be so severe that vaginal penetration is not possible. Vaginismus can come about because of past damage or trauma, such as previous painful sex or sexual assault.

If the pelvic floor is overly weak or overly tight it can cause pain during sex, especially during penetration.

Pelvic floor stretches and breathing exercises may help strengthen the pelvic floor and eventually reduce pain. Ultimately, if you think you may have vaginismus, the best idea is to go see a doctor and/or a pelvic health physical therapist for professional help.

Pain During Anal Penetration

It’s not uncommon for anal play to feel a bit unfamiliar or slightly uncomfortable at first, but contrary to popular belief pain is neither a normal or necessary part of anal sex. Like vaginal sex, pain during anal sex is often due to tense muscles, which in turn may be caused by a number of factors: an overly tight pelvic floor, anxiety, or simply lacking the necessary warm-up!

If the muscles are not ready, trying to insert something into the anus can cause painful spasms.

If the muscles are not relaxed, trying to insert something (especially something on the bigger side like a penis or dildo) into the anus can cause painful spasms. To prevent spasms, start with something smaller like a finger or small butt plug, take plenty of time, breathe deeply with your belly, and use lots of lube. The parasympathetic nervous system controls the internal anal sphincter muscle, which you can’t consciously control, so you want to make sure that you’re very relaxed, otherwise that muscle will stay tightly clenched.

Caring For Your Pelvic Floor To Reduce Painful Sex

Pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs your attention, whether that means applying more lube, changing positions, or going to see a doctor. If you are experiencing frequent or severe pain during sex, you should see a health care provider. If the discomfort is minimal, you can experiment with sex positions where penetration isn’t too deep, or focus on external stimulation.

There do exist some toys that can ease sex-related pelvic floor pain. For example, the OhNut is a squishy ring that you put on the shaft of a penis. It allows you to control the depth of penetration thereby alleviating potential discomfort.

Pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs your attention, whether that means applying more lube, changing positions, or going to see a doctor.

Some people also use ice or heating packs on their vulvas before sex to prepare and relax the muscles. Be sure to frequently check your skin when using ice and heat, as they can both burn you!

If you have an overly tight pelvic floor it is important that you do not practice Kegel exercises (unless advised to by a doctor). Kegel exercises are valuable for those with a healthy or weakened pelvic floor, but are not recommended for those with an overly tight pelvic floor as they can make symptoms worse. Instead, exercises that relax and stretch the pelvic floor are recommended. Going to see a pelvic floor physical therapist is a good idea so that they can correctly assess your needs, and prescribe exercises to improve your pelvic floor health and improve your sexual satisfaction.

Sex shouldn’t be painful. If painful sex is casting a shadow on your sex life pelvic floor muscle tension might be the underlying problem. It may be time to consider seeking professional help in order to pursue the pleasure you deserve.

Related Articles:

Meet The Pelvic Floor O.riginal

How To Relax And Stretch Your Pelvic Floor

Why Does It Hurt When I Have Sex?

What Is Your Vulva? What Are The Parts Of A Vagina?

What Is Anal Play?

The Pelvic Floor, Sex And Orgasms

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Video transcript

This is one of the myths that people have is that pain is a rite of passage for sex. Sex is good, but it shouldn't hurt. A lot of people ask me about conditions called dyspareunia, vulvodynia, and vaginismus. Dyspareunia is when people with vaginas have pain with initial penetration and deeper penetration. This is not normal, because having pain with sex can really do a number on our self-esteem and our mood. Another condition that commonly affects vagina owners is vaginismus, and that's when the vaginal muscles or the pelvic floor muscles contract in response to any type of penetration, so that can be a tampon, a spectulum, a penis or a toy. Vulvodynia is a term where you have pain in the vulva, right, and so the vulva is going to be the tissues on the outside of the vagina, okay, not the inside, and that's gonna be burning, itching, scratchy pain. It's really uncomfortable. There's also a condition called vestibulodynia, so that's where you have burning and pain in the vestibule right at the opening around the vagina. Number one, use lubricant and experiment with lubricant, so that means water-based lubricant or silicone-based lubricant. Take your time. If you're having pain with initial penetration, try stretching the pelvic floor beforehand by using your finger and really maximizing arousal before you insert a penis, insert a toy, or insert a finger. I think all of us need to expand our definition of sex, meaning if you're a person who has pain every time you have penetrative sex, well, the whole point or one of the many points of sex is pleasure, and if penetrative sex is bringing you pain and not pleasure, then start having sex that brings you pleasure. Penetration is not the gold standard. You're going to need afterplay. Afterplay is when you recover, right, so if you know that you're gonna have burning or kind of a heavy pressure pain, get an ice pack in that area. Place an ice pack there, and then all the while, maybe you're touching your partner's belly, your partner's touching yours, and you guys can do synchronized diaphragmatic breathing and recover after sex, debrief after sex, have some coffee talk after sex. What was great? Maybe what we can try differently next time? Improving your sexual communication can take your sex life to the very next level despite the pain. And then seek out a health professional that can help you manage the pain that you're experiencing with penetration.