What can I do if sex is painful? (female)

By Shannon Strauch, PTA, STMT-1 on 5/16/2024

painful sex for women

Painful sex for women, also known as dyspareunia, can be a distressing condition that affects many individuals. It can stem from various physical, emotional, and psychological factors, but one common cause is pelvic floor dysfunction. Pelvic floor therapy is an effective treatment option for managing and alleviating painful sex.

Understanding Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

The pelvic floor is a group of muscles, ligaments, and tissues that support the pelvic organs, including the bladder, uterus (in women), and rectum. When these muscles are too tight, too weak, or not coordinated properly, it can lead to pelvic floor dysfunction, which can manifest as pain during sex.

Causes of Painful Sex Related to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction

  1. Muscle Tension:

    Tight or overactive pelvic floor muscles can cause pain during penetration.

  2. Muscle Weakness:

    Weak muscles can lead to insufficient support for pelvic organs, causing discomfort.

  3. Scar Tissue:

    Scarring from surgeries, childbirth, or injuries can restrict muscle movement and cause pain.

  4. Vulvodynia:

    Chronic pain or discomfort around the vulva often associated with pelvic floor muscle dysfunction.

  5. Endometriosis:

    A condition where tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus grows outside it, causing pain that can affect pelvic floor function.

How Pelvic Floor Therapy Helps

Pelvic floor therapy aims to improve the function of the pelvic floor muscles through various techniques, including:

  1. Pelvic Floor Exercises:

    Depending on how a person presents, a pelvic floor therapist can help decide if you would benefit from strengthening of the pelvic floor (Kegels) or relaxing the pelvic floor muscles.

  2. Manual Therapy:

    A pelvic floor therapist can use hands-on techniques to stretch and massage the muscles, reducing tension and improving mobility.

  3. Biofeedback:

    This technique uses sensors to provide real-time feedback on pelvic floor muscle activity, helping individuals learn how to control their muscles better.

  4. Education:

    Therapists educate patients about the anatomy and function of the pelvic floor, teaching them how to manage their symptoms effectively.

  5. Relaxation Techniques:

    Breathing exercises, meditation, and other relaxation strategies can help reduce muscle tension and anxiety related to painful sex.

Benefits of Pelvic Floor Therapy

  1. Reduced Pain:

    Targeted exercises and manual therapy can significantly reduce pain during sex.

  2. Improved Muscle Function:

    Strengthening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles can enhance overall pelvic health.

  3. Enhanced Sexual Experience:

    Addressing pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to a more comfortable and enjoyable sexual experience.

  4. Increased Awareness:

    Education and biofeedback increase awareness of pelvic floor muscles, empowering individuals to manage their condition effectively.

Seeking Help

If you experience painful sex, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment. A pelvic floor therapist can provide a comprehensive evaluation and develop a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs.

By addressing pelvic floor dysfunction through targeted therapy, many individuals find relief from painful sex, leading to improved quality of life and sexual well-being.

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