What To Do When Sex Hurts?

Pain during sex, medically termed dyspareunia, is a complex and often distressing condition affecting individuals of all genders and ages. While it's commonly associated with physical discomfort, its origins can stem from a multitude of factors, including physiological, psychological, and relational issues. From vaginal dryness to pelvic floor disorders, endometriosis, or psychological trauma, the causes are diverse and multifaceted. Moreover, cultural stigmas and societal taboos often hinder open discussions about this issue, leading many sufferers to silently endure their discomfort. Understanding and addressing pain during sex is crucial for both physical and emotional well-being, as it can profoundly impact intimate relationships and overall quality of life. In this exploration, we delve into the complexities surrounding this issue, seeking to shed light on its causes, effects, and potential avenues for relief and healing.

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What Are The Common Causes Of Pain During Sex?

Sexual intercourse is meant to be an enjoyable and pleasurable experience, but for some individuals, it can be accompanied by pain and discomfort. Pain during sex, medically termed dyspareunia, can occur in both men and women, and it can have various underlying causes. Understanding these causes is crucial for seeking appropriate treatment and restoring sexual well-being. Here, we delve into five common factors contributing to pain during sex.

Lack of Lubrication:

Insufficient lubrication is one of the primary culprits behind painful intercourse. Inadequate arousal or foreplay can result in insufficient natural lubrication in the vagina, making penetration uncomfortable or painful. Additionally, certain medications, hormonal imbalances, menopause, or medical conditions such as Sjögren's syndrome can lead to decreased lubrication, exacerbating discomfort during sex. Using water-based lubricants can help alleviate friction and enhance comfort during intercourse.

Vaginal Infections or Irritations:

Infections or irritations in the vaginal area can cause significant discomfort during sex. Conditions such as yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or skin conditions like dermatitis or eczema can result in inflammation, itching, burning sensations, and pain during intercourse. Seeking prompt medical attention for diagnosis and treatment of these infections is essential to alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

Pelvic Floor Disorders:

Issues related to the pelvic floor muscles can contribute to pain during sex, particularly in women. Conditions like pelvic floor dysfunction, pelvic floor muscle spasms (vaginismus), or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause tightness, discomfort, or sharp pain during penetration. Pelvic floor physical therapy, relaxation techniques, and exercises prescribed by a healthcare professional can help address pelvic floor disorders and improve sexual function.

Psychological Factors:

Psychological factors play a significant role in sexual health and can influence the experience of pain during intercourse. Anxiety, stress, depression, past trauma, relationship conflicts, or negative attitudes towards sex can contribute to feelings of discomfort or pain. These emotional and psychological issues can manifest physically, leading to difficulties with arousal, lubrication, or muscle tension during sex. Seeking therapy or counselling to address underlying psychological factors can be beneficial in managing pain and enhancing sexual satisfaction.

Structural Abnormalities or Medical Conditions:

Certain structural abnormalities or medical conditions can also lead to pain during sex. Conditions such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, pelvic inflammatory disease, or genital prolapse can cause pelvic pain, discomfort during intercourse, or deep penetration pain. In men, conditions like Peyronie's disease, genital infections, or prostate issues may contribute to pain during sex. Diagnosis and treatment of these underlying conditions by a healthcare provider are crucial for managing symptoms and improving sexual well-being.

What To Do When Sex Hurts?

Tips to Avoid Pain During Sex:

Sexual intercourse should be a pleasurable and enjoyable experience for all parties involved. However, for some individuals, it can be associated with pain or discomfort. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimise or avoid pain during sex. Here are five essential points to consider:

Communicate with Your Partner:

Effective communication is key to a satisfying sexual experience. If you're experiencing pain during sex, it's crucial to discuss it openly and honestly with your partner. This can help both of you understand each other's needs and preferences better. Additionally, discussing any concerns or discomforts can alleviate anxiety and create a more relaxed environment for intimacy. Expressing your needs and boundaries can also guide your partner in adjusting their approach to sex. Whether it's trying different positions, using lubrication, or slowing down the pace, open communication allows both partners to find what works best for them. Remember, your partner likely wants you to enjoy the experience as much as they do, so don't hesitate to speak up about any discomfort.

Focus on Foreplay:

Foreplay plays a crucial role in preparing your body for sexual intercourse. It helps stimulate arousal and increases natural lubrication, making penetration smoother and more comfortable. Spending more time on foreplay can also help alleviate any tension or anxiety you may be feeling, promoting relaxation and enhancing pleasure. Experiment with different types of foreplay, such as kissing, touching, and oral stimulation, to discover what feels best for you and your partner. Don't rush through this stage; instead, savour the intimate moments and allow yourself to become fully aroused before moving on to penetrative sex. Remember, the more aroused you are, the less likely you are to experience pain during intercourse.

Use Lubrication:

Insufficient lubrication is a common cause of discomfort or pain during sex, particularly for individuals experiencing vaginal dryness. Using a water-based or silicone-based lubricant can significantly reduce friction and irritation, making intercourse more comfortable and enjoyable. Apply lubricant generously to both partners' genitals before penetration, as well as to any sex toys that may be involved. Don't be afraid to reapply as needed during sex, as lubrication can diminish over time, especially with prolonged intercourse. Experiment with different types and brands of lubricants to find the one that works best for you and doesn't cause any adverse reactions.

Seek Professional Help:

If you continue to experience pain during sex despite trying the above strategies, it's essential to seek advice from a healthcare professional. Painful intercourse can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as infections, hormonal imbalances, or pelvic floor dysfunction. A healthcare provider, such as a gynaecologist or urologist, can conduct a thorough evaluation to identify any potential causes of pain and recommend appropriate treatment options. This may include medication, physical therapy, or counselling, depending on the underlying cause. Remember, addressing the root cause of the pain is essential for restoring your sexual health and overall well-being.

What To Do When Sex Hurts?

Positions for People Who Have Pain In Sex:

Experiencing pain during sex can be distressing and challenging for individuals, impacting both physical and emotional well-being. However, finding comfortable and pleasurable positions can help alleviate discomfort and allow for enjoyable sexual experiences. In this article, we explore five positions specifically tailored for individuals who experience pain during sex, focusing on maximising comfort, minimising pressure on sensitive areas, and enhancing intimacy.

Spooning Position:

The spooning position is a classic choice for individuals experiencing pain during sex, as it minimises pressure on sensitive areas while allowing for intimate contact. To assume this position, both partners lie on their sides, facing the same direction, with the penetrating partner positioned behind the receiving partner. This position provides ample opportunities for gentle caresses, kisses, and whispered affection, fostering emotional connection and intimacy. Additionally, the shallow penetration angle can help reduce discomfort for individuals with pelvic pain or deep penetration sensitivity.

Side-by-Side Position:

Similar to the spooning position, the side-by-side position allows for intimate contact while minimising pressure on sensitive areas. To try this position, both partners lie on their sides, facing each other, with their bodies aligned. The penetrating partner can then enter the receiving partner from this angle, allowing for shallow penetration and reduced pressure on areas prone to discomfort. This position also enables partners to maintain eye contact, engage in sensual touching, and communicate openly, enhancing emotional intimacy and connection.

Modified Missionary Position:

The missionary position is a popular choice for many couples, but it can be modified to accommodate individuals experiencing pain during sex. To modify the missionary position for comfort, the receiving partner can elevate their hips using pillows or cushions, creating a more comfortable angle for penetration. Additionally, the penetrating partner can adjust their thrusting rhythm and depth to minimise discomfort and maximise pleasure for both partners. This modified version of the missionary position allows for intimate contact, deep penetration, and enhanced pleasure while reducing pressure on sensitive areas.

Cowgirl or Cowboy Position:

The cowgirl or cowboy position, where the receiving partner straddles the penetrating partner, can be a comfortable option for individuals experiencing pain during sex. In this position, the receiving partner has control over the depth and angle of penetration, allowing them to adjust according to their comfort level. Additionally, the penetrating partner can provide support and guidance, ensuring a pleasurable experience for both partners. This position allows for intimacy, flexibility, and exploration, empowering individuals to find a rhythm that works best for their bodies.

Standing or Leaning Positions:

For individuals experiencing discomfort when lying down, standing or leaning positions can provide a welcome alternative. Positions such as standing facing each other, leaning against a wall or furniture, or bending over a surface can allow for shallow penetration and reduced pressure on sensitive areas. These positions also offer opportunities for creative experimentation, spontaneity, and variety, enhancing sexual satisfaction and pleasure for both partners.

What To Do When Sex Hurts?


Finding comfortable and pleasurable positions is essential for individuals experiencing pain during sex. By exploring positions that minimise pressure on sensitive areas, maximise intimacy, and promote open communication, individuals can enjoy fulfilling sexual experiences and strengthen their connection with their partner. It's important to prioritise comfort, communication, and mutual pleasure, and to seek support from healthcare professionals or sex therapists if pain persists or becomes a barrier to intimacy. With patience, understanding, and a willingness to explore, individuals can navigate pain during sex and rediscover the joy and pleasure of physical intimacy.


Is pain during sex only a concern for women?

No, pain during sex can affect people of all genders. While it's more commonly reported by women, men can also experience pain during intercourse due to various factors such as infections, erectile dysfunction, or psychological issues.

Should I see a doctor if I experience pain during sex?

Yes, it's advisable to see a healthcare provider if you experience pain during sex. They can help identify the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment. Ignoring the pain could lead to further complications and affect your overall well-being.