Pain during sex

Why Does Sex Hurt?

This isn’t a very nice thing to talk about, but having sex hurts. I’m not sure when it started, but pretty much every time I have sex I feel pain during it, and most of the time it hurts for a while afterwards. Is it normal to feel pain during sex? Is there anything I can do?

Answer: People experience pain during sex for many reasons. Figuring out why people feel pain during sex can actually be very complicated to answer for a number of reasons:

  • Definitions of what is pain versus what’s discomfort differ for people, and for researchers
  • Definitions of sex differ. When most people say “sex” they mean intercourse. For some people even sexual touching can cause pain, where for others it is only penetration that causes pain
  • Because we aren’t encouraged to speak openly about sex, it is likely that many people suffer in silence, so we may not know as much about sexual pain as we do about, for example, chronic back pain, or tooth pain.

The most important thing to know is that sex doesn’t have to hurt. Making sex comfortable may require creativity and patience, but most people can find a way to enjoy sex without pain. Sex may be uncomfortable if you’re not relaxed and aroused. Make time for foreplay and try not to think of penetrative sex as the main goal. Penetration will be painful if the vagina is not lubricated.

When sex hurts it is often the result of a combination of factors, including physical and psychological ones. Something may happen in your body that hurts during sex, and then in the future, you may anticipate the pain, which can amplify the experience next time.

Figuring out why sex is painful, and what to do about it, is a bit like solving a mystery (albeit a painful mystery, and one where you don’t get to have sex). You’ll want to consider both the physical and psychological causes of pain during sex.

Once you’ve explored the possible reasons for pain during sex, you may want to explore some of these
tips for eliminating or reducing pain during sex.

What To Do When Sex Is Painful

For reasons that vary from structural issues to psychological concerns, painful intercourse may occur. This makes finding solutions a bit like solving a mystery, a very painful mystery. If you are experiencing pain during sex (dyspareunia) know that it doesn’t have to be the way it currently is.

And as a general rule, if you are doing something that hurts, try to stop doing it until you can explore your options and realize where the pain comes from. Not all of these suggestions will apply to everyone or every situation, but here are some things you can do and consider when trying to figure out what is going on when sex hurts.

Take Notes

Our shame around sex results in a lot of silence and vagueness when it comes to our sexual bodies and sexual activities. You need to start figuring out precisely what is going on in order to figure out what might be causing pain. Ask yourself some questions:

  • When did sex start to hurt (or has it always hurt)?
  • When does the pain begin? When you’re getting excited, when there’s a lot of touching, only during certain sexual activities, when you orgasm?
  • Where do you feel the pain (is it in one specific area, or more general)?
  • Are there still things you can do sexually that don’t cause pain?
  • Does the pain occur with all partners?

Explore on Your Own

If you don’t regularly masturbate, now is the time to start. If you can masturbate without pain, that is a helpful thing to know. It also means you can satisfy yourself while you figure out how to resume sex with a partner without it hurting.

Using masturbation to explore sexual pain can be easier because you don’t have to worry about a partner poking you the wrong way. You can be as gentle (or as rough) as you want to be, and you’re always in control. If intercourse with your partner is painful, you may want to use a vibrator or dildo (with lots of lubricants) to explore penetration with masturbation, to discover if it feels the same or different.

Learn how to find sex toys that deliver ultimate satisfaction :

Try Using Lubrication

Vaginal dryness is one of the common causes of pain during sex. Warm up the lubricant in your hands before applying. Include lubricant as a part of foreplay to boost arousal. Apply lubricant right before penetration during partner or solo play. Be liberal when applying so that your vulva and vagina are sufficiently wet.

Communicate With Partners

It can be difficult to talk about sex at the best of times. But when you want to talk about a difficult sexual issue the communication can get even trickier. Communication is key to resolving painful sex. Even if the cause is entirely physical, and will go away with treatment, it’s still important to talk with your partner about the pain you’re experiencing. Talking alone won’t convey the experience of living with pain, but you need to start building understanding somewhere, and telepathy just isn’t as reliable as written or spoken communication.

Pin during sex

You also need to talk in order to figure out other ways for both of you to satisfy your sexual needs while you are getting treated. This can be one of the positives of experiencing sexual pain, it can force couples to break down communication barriers and for some people it leads to a better sex life than before the pain was experienced.

Experiment with Sexual Positions

For some pain during sex play can be reduced or even eliminated through adjusting the position your body is in while having sex. There are some basic position tips to reduce or avoid the pain that may make a difference for you. Pain may be the result of pressure on joints, or of stress and strain as you move (some positions allow for more movement than others). Everyone is different, and when you have two or more bodies together you have to take everybody into consideration.

Get Help and Support from Professionals

This may not be an option for you, but if you have access to a physician and/or other health care providers, speak with them about your sexual pain. Talking with a doctor about sex can feel risky, and it won’t always go easy (doctors get very little training on sexuality and less on talking about it) but it’s important both because they may be able to help, and also because the pain you are experiencing could be related to other health issues which may have nothing to do with sex, but which could be warning signs that should be noticed.

Medical conditions, causing pain during sex:

  • A vaginal infection – thrush or a sexually transmitted infection (STI), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or genital herpes
  • The menopause – changing hormone levels can make your vagina dry
  • Lack of sexual arousal, which can happen at any age
  • Vaginismus – a condition where muscles in or around the vagina shut tightly, making sex painful or impossible
  • Genital irritation or allergy caused by spermicides, latex condoms, or products such as soap and shampoo
Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie Dawson, Ph.D.

Amie is your go-to gal for all things related to sex and sexual well-being.

A certified sex educator and award-winning sex toy reviewer, Amie has spent her career empowering individuals and couples to embrace their sexuality.

With a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality and an ever-growing collection of over 200 vibrators, she's got the knowledge and experience to guide you on your pleasure-seeking journey.

Add comment