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Woman in pain

Is Pain During Intercourse Normal?

Painful intercourse (medical name: dyspareunia) is a condition that is experienced by 40 million American women. It can happen at all stages of a woman's life, and it doesn’t depend on the individual’s age. Pain can occur before, during, or after intercourse. This pain can often interfere with bonding and intimacy in the relationship, causing both physical and emotional distress. Although common, painful intercourse should not be viewed as normal and there are a number of options for treatment. 

There are many reasons for this condition. They can be physical or psychological in nature.


  • Tight pelvic floor muscles
  • Hormonal changes which can lead to vulvar and vaginal atrophy
    • During and post menopause
    • Use of some contraceptive medications
    • Fertility drugs
  • Dryness, irritation, or tearing
  • Vaginal and vulvar skin disorder (for example scaring and erosion)
  • Interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome
  • Chronic pelvic pain (endometriosis)
  • Gastrointestinal conditions (for example irritable bowel syndromes and ulcerative colitis)
  • After radiation therapy/treatment in the pelvic area
  • Vaginal infections (bacterial or fungal)
  • After some abdominal surgeries
  • Stress
  • History of sexual or emotional trauma

Treatments for Dyspareunia

Research shows that pelvic floor physical therapy is an effective treatment option for pain with intercourse. Your treatment will be tailored to you. This can incorporate manual therapy techniques, including trigger point therapy. Coordinated breathing exercises as well as biofeedback techniques can assist with learning to contract and relax the pelvic floor. If you’ve had cancer treatments that may impact the pelvic region, vaginal dilator therapy may be an option. After pregnancy, treatment can include scar massage and desensitization. 

Can Men Experience this too?

Men have a pelvic floor similar to women and can also experience sexual dysfunction and pain. Read our blog focusing on male sexual dysfunction.

What Steps Should You Take

If you experience pain with intercourse, regardless of your age, please discuss your symptoms with your physician. Help can be provided by a number of medical providers including pelvic physical therapy, OB/GYN, behavioral health, and urogynecology. We can coordinate the best care team for you. You can also reach out to our Pelvic Health Navigator at (402) 717-7358.

Rihab Sayed, PT
Rihab Sayed, PT

Rihab Sayed, PT is a Pelvic Health Physical Therapist with CHI Health.

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