When Love Hurts: Causes and Cures for Painful Sex
Orgasms, pleasure, sensual, and love are words often associated with healthy sex. Physical pain and hurting are not. But for the men and women who live with
Both psychological and physical factors contribute to painful sex, and treatments vary. Sometimes, something as simple as choosing a different brand of condom or discovering new foreplay techniques will alleviate the problem. In other cases, medicine or more rarely, surgery may be necessary. When the cause is more psychological than physical, individual or couples therapy may be the solution.
When a Woman Experiences Pain During Sex
Vaginal dryness is often the culprit causing pain that is felt on entry but eases later on. When a woman becomes sexually aroused, glands in her vagina secrete a fluid that acts as a lubricant. Anything that disrupts this process can result in inadequate lubrication and subsequently, painful intercourse.
Other factors can cause lubrication problems, such as insufficient foreplay or changes in women's hormone levels caused by postmenopause or breastfeeding. Medicines, such as antihistamines, can also have an overall drying effect.
Extended foreplay or more effective stimulation techniques may resolve the problem simply and easily. If not, using a lubricated condom or applying a water-soluble
Feeling pain at or near the entrance to the vagina may be the result of a vaginal or
Reproductive Tract Disorders/Vaginismus
Pain that is felt deeper inside the vagina or into the lower abdomen during intercourse may be a sign of
When a Man Experiences Painful Sex
When a man experiences pain during intercourse, it is usually when he becomes erect or as he ejaculates. As with women, a man's genital pain may originate from an infection or an irritation, such as the use of a spermicide. Inflammation of the urethra or the prostate are also common causes of pain during ejaculation. Both of these conditions can usually be medically treated.
Other infections, including STDs like
Pain is sometimes associated with a pronounced curvature of the erect penis, called Peyronie's Disease. Found primarily in men age 40-60, Peyronie's Disease is caused by scar tissue build up inside the penis. During erection, the scar tissue does not fill with blood, which causes the penis to curve. The curvature may or may not be painful, and the pain often resolves over time.
When to Seek Help
In addition to the immediate physical discomfort, the repercussions of painful intercourse can interfere with relationships and sexual compatibility. Pain can also signal a medical condition in need of attention. If simple remedies, such as increasing lubrication and foreplay do not provide relief, immediately speak to a doctor. Be prepared to describe when the pain began, where it is located, and what it feels like. Bring a list of the medicines you take, and be sure to bring up any other medical conditions for which you receive treatment. If you are concerned that you may have an STD, share this information with your doctor, as well. Tests can be done to check for infections.
Do not let embarrassment keep you from seeking help. Although you may feel uncomfortable discussing sexual intimacy, painful intercourse is a common problem. Your doctor has probably held similar conversations with other patients. Above all, remember the intent: more fulfilling sexual intimacy.
The Society for Human Sexuality
The Vulvar Pain Foundation
Tredgold R, Wolff H. Sexual disorders. In: Psychiatry in General Practice. New York, NY: International Universities Press; 1994.
Chlamydia. EBSCO Health Library website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/thisTopic.php?marketID=15topicID=81. Updated October 2009. Accessed April 29, 2010.
Last reviewed May 2010 by
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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