Painful Sex: It Isn't Normal and You're Not Alone
Are you a woman who experiences pain during penetrative intercourse? It’s a “normal” or acceptable amount of pain, right? Or maybe you feel like some strange anomaly? Either way, what can you really do about it?
Well, I’m here to assure you you’re not alone, it isn’t normal, and you have options!
In this post I’m going to be referencing a survey by Herbenick et al. done in 2012. It has some limitations, including that it analyzes only penile penetrative sex and only considers the most recent sexual encounter; so those who avoid sex entirely due to pain are excluded. However, I think this study can still be helpful in understanding the scope of the problem as the results yielded from even their stringent inclusion criteria are fairly astounding: approximately ⅓ of women across all generations report pain with penetrative intercourse.
Despite the prevalence of sexual pain, we rarely speak of this complication in our inner circles and it is all but completely ignored by American culture. Many do not inform their partners of their discomfort, choosing instead to push through for the sake of the other’s ego, a sense of obligation, or even clinging to the hope that “Maybe this time will be better…” It is also fairly common for women to forego seeking a medical opinion. Reasons include embarrassment, uncertainty about who they could tell, and bad experiences with doctors who either dismissed their pain or who didn’t know how to treat the issue. Those women who do seek help are often lead down paths that offer no real relief.
Causes of vaginal pain are varied and sometimes unknown. Point in case, most names for vaginal pain are descriptive of type or location of pain and do not indicate a type of disease. This can be one reason why so many healthcare providers seem stumped when women come to them for help. But there are many treatments that have been shown to be extremely effective:
Pelvic physical therapy - internal manual therapy via the rectum and/or vagina to address imbalanced pelvic floor muscles accompanied by stretches and exercises to support in office work
Massage therapy - specialty techniques such as the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Massage and myofascial work performed externally on the abdomen, low back, hips, glutes, and thighs accompanied by self care instructions to realign the skeleton and rebalance muscles and energy flow (learn more about massage and vaginal pain here, here, and here)
Energy work - modalities such as body awareness training, Reiki, and EMDR performed by a massage therapist, energy worker, or psychologist to work through past traumas or held emotions that can manifest in physical pain
Botox Injections - botox injected into your pelvic floor and vaginal muscles to numb hypersensitive nerves and relax hypertonic muscles
Surgery - removal of the uterus, vestibule, or other inflamed organ that could be contributing to pain
Rougher sex or intentional pain can be a healthy part of sexual preference and exploration, but unsolicited pain is never part of a routine sex life. It might be an unfortunately common part of women’s experiences, but that common does not denote normal or healthy. And you do not have to accept it as just a “normal” part of your life. Everyone deserves to live fully and healthfully in their body, experiencing the fully range of its capabilities.
To read the entire 2012 survey click below.
Herbenick, D., Schick, V., Sanders, S., Reece, M., Fortenberry, D. (2012). Pain Experienced During Vaginal and Anal Intercourse with Other-Sex Partners: Findings from a Nationally Representative Probability Study in the United States. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 12(4), 1040–1051.
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