Why Does My Clit Hurt?

The clit is made to feel good. But what if it feels bad? Clitoris pain is common, but you don’t have to tolerate it. Explore causes of clit pain and their solutions.

Why Does My Clit Hurt?

Why Does My Clit Hurt?

Why Does My Clit Hurt?

Published
September 24, 2019
— Updated
June 2, 2021
Medically Reviewed by
4 minute read

The clitoris has just one purpose, and that is pleasure. So experiencing frequent clitoral pain (officially called clitorodynia) can be confusing and upsetting. There are many factors that can lead to a sore clit, including irritation from hygiene products, your unique anatomy, and certain medical conditions. If you’re experiencing clit pain, you don’t have to suffer: Figuring out what’s causing it can help you find relief.

What is the clitoris?

The clitoris is more than a bump a couple inches above the vagina—that part is just the head (glans). The rest of the clit is internal, with two “legs” that wrap around each side of the vagina (1). The penis and the clitoris have a similar number of nerve endings, but in the clit they’re condensed into a much smaller space, making it even more sensitive (2).

Clit Sensitivity

Because there are so many nerve endings bundled together in the external clitoris, some people are hypersensitive to clitoral stimulation: This sensitivity can contribute to discomfort in the clit. In some cases, direct touch to the clitoris can be painful just because it’s so sensitive. 

In some cases, direct touch to the clitoris can be painful just because it’s so sensitive.

Some people experience changes in the sensitivity of their clit in response to sexual arousal: It may be very sensitive before they get turned on, less sensitive when they’re super aroused, and hypersensitive again after orgasm (3). If this is the case for you, start out slowly, stroking around the clit and over the clitoral hood, rather than touching it directly. 

Be Gentle With The Clit

Many clits need a warm-up period before progressing to firmer pressure. Start with slow, gentle touch, increasing the pressure and speed only if it feels good. 

If you’re having sex with a partner, it can be easier to tell them what you like if you’ve already figured it out for yourself. Exploring the kinds of sensations that feel best for your clitoris through self-pleasure can be helpful in reducing discomfort and guiding your partner.

Use Lube On The Pussy

Using lubricant during clitoral stimulation can increase your comfort and help to prevent clit pain. Dryness increases friction, which can be painful for some people, especially those with sensitive clits. You can use your own natural wetness, transferring vaginal fluid from your vagina to your clit with your fingers, a partner’s fingers, or a toy, or a store-bought lube, to reduce friction and promote greater pleasure.

For some people, gentle touch and lubrication may be enough to relieve clit pain. If you’re still experiencing discomfort, though, or even hurting when you’re not having sex or masturbating, there are some other things to look into.

Clit Anatomy

Anatomy can be a factor in clit pain. The clitoral hood (the flap of skin covering the glans) provides a protective layer over the sensitive tissue underneath. If your clitoral hood is smaller or nonexistent, more of the glans may be exposed, leading to discomfort due to friction (4). 

In some people, the glans of the clitoris may be partially or fully stuck to the hood, a phenomenon known as clitoral adhesion or clitoral phimosis. Injury to the area, skin conditions that result in irritation of the vulva, and menopause are all factors that can cause the clit to stick to the hood; it may also happen for no known reason (5). Clitoral adhesion can cause the buildup of smegma (a whitish substance made up of oils, sweat, dead skin cells, and vaginal fluid), leading to the formation of irritating bumps known as keratin pearls (6). This problem can be addressed with a visit to your healthcare provider, who may use a simple procedure to free the clitoris and remove uncomfortable bumps. In some cases, minor surgery may be needed to correct the problem (5).

Avoid Irritants On The Pussy

Tight clothing can rub uncomfortably or put pressure on the clit, which, because it contains so many nerve endings, is easily irritated. If you normally wear tight pants or underwear, try wearing looser clothes and see if that helps. 

Laundry detergents can be irritating, so check what you’re using to wash your underwear and consider switching to an unscented variety. Avoid scented soaps or sprays on the vulva and vagina: Many of the products marketed as vulva cleaning products contain ingredients that can be irritating to delicate skin (7). Your clitoris (and the rest of your vulva) only need warm water and your hand for effective cleaning; particularly if you experience pain in your vulva or clit, it can be helpful to avoid soap on this delicate area (8). 

Check Under the Hood

In some cases, clit pain can be caused by an object under the clitoral hood, most often a hair (9). If you’re experiencing clit pain, you can gently pull the hood back with your fingers to check for a stuck hair. If it’s short and not wrapped around your clit, you can try removing it with your fingers or tweezers. If it seems stuck, or is wrapped around your clit, a healthcare provider can help you to remove it. 

Seek Medical Advice

There are some health conditions that can make your clit hurt: Urinary tract infections, yeast infections, and some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause soreness, itching, or a burning sensation on or near the clit. If you’re experiencing clit pain that doesn’t get better with gentle touch, extra lube, or switching up your personal care products, check in with a healthcare provider.

Pain is the body’s way of saying that something is wrong. If you’re experiencing clit pain, listen to your body and change what isn’t working, whether it’s a type of touch, a hygiene product, or a clothing style. If you have sex with a partner, talk with them about what feels good for your body and what doesn’t. If you’re still in pain, seek out a healthcare provider who can help you figure out what’s going on.

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

The O.school team is here to provide you with the most medically-accurate information around sex, sexual wellness, pleasure, relationships, and dating. Every article we publish is vetted by our medical review board, ensuring that readers are provided with answers you can trust.

Join our newsletter

Do you know the biggest myths about sexuality? Learn what others think about sex. Sign up for a free newsletter with answers to weekly anonymous polls about "how important is an emotional connection when you’re having sex?" and more!

References

1. “What are the parts of the female sexual anatomy?” Planned Parenthood Federation of America. 2021. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/health-and-wellness/sexual-and-reproductive-anatomy/what-are-parts-female-sexual-anatomy

2. Shih MD, Cheryl, Christopher J.Cold MD, Claire C.Yang MD. 2013. “Cutaneous Corpuscular Receptors of the Human Glans Clitoris: Descriptive Characteristics and Comparison with the Glans Penis.” The Journal of Sexual Medicine 10, no. 7 (July): 1783-1789. https://doi.org/10.1111/jsm.12191

3. Humphries, Aliisa K., and Jan Cioe. 2009. “Reconsidering the refractory period: An exploratory study of women's post-orgasmic experiences.”The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 18, no. 3: 127-134.

4. Wolffenbuttel, K.P., V.S. Menon, G.M. Grimsby, M.J.ten Kate-Booij, L.A. Baker. 2017. “Clitoral hoodplasty in females with disorders of sex development.” Journal of Pediatric Urology 13, no. 1 (February): 61.e1-61.e5  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpurol.2016.07.004

5. Aboud, Céline, Stéphane Cristinelli, Giovanni Roccaro, Jean-Paul Meningaud, Barbara Hersant. 2021. “Surgical treatment of clitoral phimosis.” Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Human Reproduction 50, no. 6 (June) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jogoh.2020.101919

6. Aerts MD PhD, Leen, Rachel S.Rubin MD, Michael Randazzo, Sue W.Goldstein CCRC, Irwin Goldstein, MD. 2018. “Retrospective Study of the Prevalence and Risk Factors of Clitoral Adhesions: Women's Health Providers Should Routinely Examine the Glans Clitoris.” Sexual Medicine 6, no. 2 (June): 115-122 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esxm.2018.01.003

7. Margesson, Lynn. 2004. “Contact dermatitis of the vulva.” Dermatologic Therapy 17, no. 1 (March): 20-27  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1396-0296.2004.04003.x

8. “What is Vulvodynia?” FAQs. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Reviewed May, 2019. https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/vulvodynia

9. Lucco, MD, Kerith, Deanna Murphy, MD, and Nicolette Caccia, MD. 2008. “A Hairy Case: Clitoral Hair Entrapment Resulting in Chronic Vulvovaginal Pain.” Journal of Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology, 21, no. 2 (April): 95. doi:10.1016/j.jpag.2008.01.059