When Sex Doesn’t Feel Good . . .

Ladies, let’s talk more about painful intercourse. This topic can tend to be brushed aside and many women may feel too ashamed to bring it up to their doctor or other health professionals. This particular type of pain can cause self esteem and relationship issues. As a continuation to our previous blog post, let’s explore another term used to describe painful intercourse – Vaginismus.

What is Vaginismus?


A vaginal tightening causing discomfort, burning, pain, penetration problems or complete inability to have intercourse. 

The woman does not directly control or “will” the tightness to occur; the tightness is actually caused by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina.  She may not even have an awareness that the muscle response is causing the tightness or penetration problems.

Primary Vaginismus occurs when first trying to insert a tampon or attempting to intercourse.  For some women, Vaginismus occurs after experiencing yeast, urinary tract infection or when having sexually transmitted disease.


Talking to Your Doctor

Introduce the problem: “I have been having problems with pain during sex and hope you will be able to help me.”

Provide a description of the pain (be specific):

  • It happens when…”My partner tries to penetrate me” or “once they are inside and start to move, I feel burning and I tighten up”, etc.
  • The pain is located …”at the entrance of my vagina. My vagina is like a wall; nothing can get in.” or “after something is inside I feel burning just inside my entrance”, etc.
  • The pain lasts…”as long as I keep trying”. Especially mention any past problems: Have you previously had any sexually transmitted diseases, yeast infections, bladder problems or any pelvic pain outside of penetration?


Mention any past sexual abuse.

Traumatic events, past emotional and sexual abuse as well as witnessing violence or abuse may all be contributing factors. Though they may seem unrelated and go unmentioned, these events and feelings are important to mention to your doctor and/or therapist.

Dr. Katherine Bettin specializes in sexual and relationship issues for individuals and couples of all sexual orientations and lifestyles. Her conversation-based therapy has helped countless clients achieve lasting happiness in their personal lives. Dr. Betting is one of the only AASECT-certified sex therapists in Richmond, Virginia.

State what you think the problem is.

“I think it may be Vaginismus. My symptoms are similar to those outlined in an article/brochure I read.  However, I have read there are other things that can cause pain during intercourse and would like to have them ruled out.”

How can physical therapy help with treatment?

  • Progressive desensitization exercises
  • Exercises to control and relax the pelvic floor  muscles around the vagina
  • Soft tissue mobilization with dilators
  • Modalities to increase circulation in muscles
  • Pain elimination techniques

Exercises can be done at home and when practiced regularly results occur over a period of weeks to months 


Vaginismus is considered the most successfully treatable female sexual disorder.  Many studies have shown treatment success rates approaching nearly 100%



Published by Dr. Cora T Huitt

Cora T. Huitt, PT, DPT, BCB-PMD ~Thirty seven years of clinical practice, specializing in women's health for fifteen years. ~BS Degree in Allied Health Professions, Ohio State University, '72. ~Master of Arts in College Teaching (MACT) focus in Physical Therapy & Therapeutic Exercise, University of North Carolina, '76. ~ Doctorate of Physical Therapy, Alabama State University, 2010 ~Attended multiple courses offered in Women's Health Physical Therapy, including Pelvic 1, 2, 3 Course in Women's Health Section APTA. ~Member of VPTA and APTA, Women's Health Section. ~BCIA-PMDB Biofeedback- Pelvic Muscle Dysfunction Biofeedback. ~Certified Pilates instructor, ProHealth. ~Affiliate member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology. ~Member of International Continence Society. ~Member of National Vulvodynia Association. ~Adjunct Clinical Faculty for student affiliation at multiple universities. ~Director of APTA Women's Health Residency since 2007, credentialed in 2008. (only other residency at Duke Unviersity)

2 thoughts on “When Sex Doesn’t Feel Good . . .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: