Painful intercourse — persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after sex — may occur for a variety of reasons ranging from anatomical problems to psychological concerns. It is not uncommon for women to experience pain during intercourse at some point in their lives, but treatments that focus on the underlying causes can help eliminate or reduce this common problem.

If you are experiencing pain, your body is trying to tell you something, but our trained physicians are here to listen, and help. In fact, we’ve helped hundreds of women no different than you take the pain out of painful sex. There are a number of different types of pain a woman may experience during sexual activity, many of which have physical causes that can be addressed with relative ease over a short period of time. Through thorough physical and psychological examinations, our team will help identify the source of your pain, provide you with a diagnosis, and then develop a treatment plan.


There are a variety of causes for the pain you’re experiencing. Insufficient lubrication may cause the penis to irritate the skin. Or muscles may have tightened due to age, childbirth, disuse or other reasons, and they may need to be stretched. There may be a nerve positioned in such a way that the penis pushes against it causing pain during intercourse. Perhaps even a muscular or bone formation has shifted causing pain during sex, or any other type of contact. Beyond those physical reasons, stress and psychological factors may also play a role.


Vaginismus is a condition where there is involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted intercourse. The tightness is actually caused by involuntary contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. It is believed that 6 -12% of women have vaginismus. However, gathering reliable statistics for vaginismus is hindered by many factors, and the actual number might be quite higher.

Vulvodynia (Vestibulodynia)

Vestibulodynia is characterized by severe pain during attempted vaginal entry (intercourse or tampon insertion), tenderness to pressure localized to the vulvar vestibule (the ring of tissue surrounding the vaginal opening), and often redness of the vulvar vestibule. It is a subset of vulvodynia, which refers to any pain in the vulva.


Dyspareunia is a general term that describes any pain during sexual intercourse. It is not a disease, but rather a symptom of a core physical or psychological condition. A woman suffering from dyspareunia may experience mild or severe pain in almost any area of the vagina or pelvic region including pain upon penetration, sudden pain after intercourse, deep pain during thrusting, or burning pain anywhere in the pelvis.


Many of us are familiar with the use of botulinum toxin as a treatment for cosmetic reasons; it relaxes the muscles in the face so that smile lines and deep wrinkles do not appear. But it is the very action of releasing muscle tension that has led to its success for use in treating vaginismus. Vaginal botulinum toxin injections inhibit the muscle spasm that causes the tightening of the vagina. It is these spasms which cause pain during intercourse. Learn More

Painful Sex Glossary

Our Painful Sex Glossary provides a list of terms associated with sexual health disorders that cause pain during intercourse.