But wait… does thinking about Valentine’s Day give you anxiety because of pain with sex?
The medical term for pain with sex (intercourse) is dyspareunia, and can affect both men and women. It includes pain just before, during, or after intercourse. The prevalence of dyspareunia varies from 3 to 18% worldwide, and it can affect 10 to 28% of the population in a lifetime.1 It is actually one of the most common complaints we see in Pelvic Physical Therapy.
So that means you’re not the only one! Even if you’ve never heard anyone else talk about it, you most likely know someone who has, or has had, pain with sex. But since it can be a sensitive topic, people may not be willing to share those details with others. Even worse, it can be talked about as normal! (It’s not).
Painful intercourse can be brought on by a number of issues including muscle tension, endometriosis, pregnancy/delivery, infections, surgeries, scar tissue, prolapse, stress/anxiety, hormonal imbalances, trauma… the list goes on!
Most people with dyspareunia have one thing in common, despite the original cause. The pelvic floor muscles and fascia tend to tighten and guard. This response is completely normal. The body wants to protect itself and especially its precious pelvic organs. But it becomes problematic when the guarding response kicks into overdrive against things that aren’t actually going to cause damage.
overprotection leads to the vicious pain cycle; if sex was painful before, the body is expecting it to be painful again and will tense up to try to protect itself, but that will only cause more pain to push against the tightened muscles. Then the cycle continues as your body learns to associate pain with intercourse.
Painful sex can then contribute to frustration, relationship strains, depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and other mental and emotional issues. Not very romantic, huh?
The good news is pelvic floor physical therapy can help! We can help identify the source of the pain, treat tight muscles and fascia, manage pain, as well as down-regulate the body’s guarding response to break that pain cycle. More importantly, we teach you how to break the cycle between your body thinking your partner is dangerous or threatening and help you resume that connection and intimacy.
Here is one patient’s story of how PT helped her enjoy pain-free intercourse:
“Pelvic PT has changed my life! I had lots of pelvic floor pain from having vestibulitis which made intercourse incredibly painful. I was pregnant and at my 37 week appointment when my doctor checked my cervix. I screamed and cried because it hurt so bad. That was the last straw and that’s when I decided I needed to get help. I went to Katelyn and she took the time to teach me about my pelvic floor. She also did a lengthy examination to see all the places I was feeling pain. She worked with me and then gave me exercises to do at home between appointments. She was able to help me have minimal pain before I had my baby. When the nurses checked my cervix at the hospital I didn’t feel pain, just a little discomfort! That was a huge deal for me. I had an episiotomy and 2nd degree tear from giving birth so intercourse was still painful. I went back to Katelyn and now I can have pain free intercourse for the first time in 20 months! She is so amazing and knowledgeable! I would recommend anyone and everyone go to her if you have any pelvic floor pain!”
So please don’t feel alone if you’re having painful sex. We are here to help you so you can enjoy intercourse on Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year!
Katelyn Peach, DPT – Read Katelyn’s Bio Here
To schedule with Katelyn or Valerie, click here
- Tayyeb M, Gupta V. Dyspareunia. [Updated 2020 Oct 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562159/