Let's Talk About Sex: What Is Dyspareunia and How Can Physical Therapy Help?

April 30, 2024

Dyspareunia is the medical term for painful sexual intercourse. The Mayo Clinic defines this as “lasting or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during, or after sex”. Dyspareunia is more common in women than men, and can happen at any age.

Symptoms of dyspareunia include pain with initial penetration and/or deep penetration which may include burning, aching, and throbbing sensations. Symptoms also include pain during orgasm and pain lasting hours after intercourse.

There are many different factors that can cause dyspareunia. Pelvic floor muscle tension, nerve dysfunction, and scar tissue restriction may contribute to painful sexual intercourse. These can be addressed by pelvic floor physical therapy. It's important to talk to your primary health care provider to rule out any underlying conditions that may require further medical management, such as endometriosis, infections and fibroids.

How Can Pelvic Floor PT Help?

A pelvic floor physical therapist will perform a thorough examination to determine potential contributors to your pain. This involves assessing pelvic floor musculature, nerve function, and any present scar tissue. Based on these findings, your physical therapist will educate and perform manual therapy techniques to improve the mobility and sensitivity of the involved tissues. They will also instruct in pelvic floor relaxation techniques to utilize before, during, and after intercourse to help improve your pain. The physical therapist should listen to your symptoms and goals in order to create a plan of care that feels manageable and helpful for you. 

Keep in mind that pain with intercourse is common but not normal, and that you deserve to participate in pain-free sexual activity! If you think you have dyspareunia or any pelvic health problems, contact me at Activcore Littleton for a phone consultation to get your questions answered.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this post are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Dr. Rachel Gerton

Physical Therapist
Rachel Gerton is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who specializes in pelvic health with a particular interest in helping pregnant and postpartum moms. She also enjoys treating kids and those experiencing pelvic pain. She works at Activcore in Denver, Colorado, located just one mile from the popular Cherry Creek Shopping District. She also works at Activcore in Littleton, Colorado, which is located inside the Womens Health Care Associates OBGYN clinic.
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