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Dyspareunia/Pain with Sex

By Bell Moody, PT, DPT

Do you/have you/know someone who has experienced pain with sex/painful intercourse?

Pain with vaginal penetration with sexual intercourse is unfortunately extremely common as it affects 10-28% of vulva owners. There are MANY different things that can contribute to painful sex including: psychosocial factors, pelvic floor disfunction, dermatologic conditions, infections, and more. You can read more on the etiology and other causes here.

I want to share how dyspareunia is treated regarding pelvic floor dysfunction. This also can have a variety of causative factors such as stress, trauma, psychosocial factors, inactivity, hydration, other comorbidities and hormonal factors to name a few.

As you're reading this please note this important sentence above "how dyspareunia is TREATED" Painful intercourse is NOT something you should have to accept and live with for the rest of your life. There are many different treatment avenues and I encourage you to find a doctor, a physical therapist, a nurse that will advocate for you and your sexual health in order to resolve your pain.

What can you do if you're having painful sex?

1. Talk to your doctor and ask about pelvic health physical therapy

A 2019 study looked at the effectiveness of pelvic floor physical therapy interventions for subjects that experienced painful sex and it resulted in significant improvements in the experimental group over three months and pelvic floor rehab determined to be an important part of approaching treatment for dyspareunia. Pelvic floor PT for dyspareunia uses skilled evaluation and treatment techniques involving: manual therapy, lots of education on muscle relaxation and lifestyle modifications to improve your pelvic health, and much more.

2. Evaluate certain lifestyle choices

-Hydration plays a huge part in your pelvic floor musculatures ability to relax to allow vaginal penetration to occur without pain. Ensure that you're drinking the recommended amount of water daily for your body (general rule to drink half your body weight in ounces)

-Manage stress. Stress increases muscle tension which will contribute to pelvic pain with vaginal penetration

3. Lubricant

-Use lubricant to decrease friction. (Let's remove the negative stigma around using lubricant. If you use it, it DOES NOT mean that you love your partner any less or something is wrong with you)

4. Exercise

-exercise such as barre and/or yoga are low impact and will not only increase your strength but promote improved flexibility and an overall balance of muscle tension.

-Stretches to try for decreased pain with sex: happy baby, child's pose, frog pose, deep squat

Other resources for painful intercourse:

Oh Nut Buffer Rings:

Intimate Rose Pelvic Wands:

For more information or interest in scheduling a physical therapy appointment please contact me at

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