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Sexual Health and Discomfort

Why we don’t often talk about sex, but should.

We understand that speaking about sexuality and sexual health can feel uncomfortable or taboo. Historically, the female genitalia used to be referred to as "pudendum," which comes from the Latin word meaning "to make ashamed." Even in America, laws have been put in place to actively limit discussions and publications relating to sex and, more specifically, women's sexual and reproductive health. So if you feel uneasy talking about sex, there’s a reason. Still, sexual health matters and we’re here to talk!

At Origin, we understand the role sexual health plays in each of our lives, and we understand the implications of poor sexual function on quality of life. It is difficult to know exactly how many women experience pain during intercourse, but it is estimated that as many as 28% of women will have painful sex at some point in their life. In women who are not sexually active, this pain can manifest during activities such as attempting to insert a tampon or having a gynecological exam. Some women may experience this pain their whole lives, while others may develop pain following surgery, an infection, childbirth, hormonal shifts, cancer treatments, birth control, or a traumatic experience. In other circumstances, the cause is simply unknown.

Whatever the cause, there are real, life-changing, consequences for individuals experiencing pain during intercourse. One of the most common comorbidities associated with sexual dysfunction is depression, but anxiety, avoidance behavior and development of unrealistic expectations surrounding sexuality can also surface. Improving sexual health is not just about enjoying sex, although everyone deserves to enjoy sex — it is about improving overall health. This is why Origin emphasizes the need for a team based approach in providing support to women who experience pain or sexual dysfunction.

How does physical therapy help with sexual discomfort and pain?

Evidence shows that pelvic floor physical therapy should be considered an integral component of a multidisciplinary approach to treating painful sex. Often, pelvic pain or discomfort is exacerbated by pelvic floor muscles that are tight and weak. Our skilled physical therapists can help your mind connect with these muscles and bring them to a state of balance to improve your symptoms, reduce pain and achieve your goals.

At Origin, treatment for painful penetration is made available at your own pace, with compassionate and knowledgeable guidance. After discussing multiple treatment options with your physical therapist, ranging from internal pelvic floor manual therapy treatments to a home exercise program involving vaginal dilators, together we will create a plan of care that is best suited for you.

Whatever your symptoms or concerns are today, at Origin, we invite you to talk about sex! And, whenever you feel ready to tackle your sexual health goals, our physical therapists are here to help you take that first step.

Additional Reading and Sources

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Public Health Approach for Advancing Sexual Health in the United States: Rationale and Options for Implementation, Meeting Report of an External Consultation. Atlanta, Georgia: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; December, 2010.
  2. Dias-Amaral, Ana, and André Marques-Pinto. "Female Genito-Pelvic Pain/Penetration Disorder: Review of the Related Factors and Overall Approach." Revista Brasileira De Ginecologia e Obstetrícia / RBGO Gynecology and Obstetrics, vol. 40, no. 12, 2018, pp. 787–793., doi:10.1055/s-0038-1675805.
  3. Harlow BL, Kunitz CG, Nguyen RH, Rydell SA, Turner RM, MacLehose RF. Prevalence of symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of vulvodynia: population‐based estimates from 2 geographic regions. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2014;210:40.
  4. Nagoski, Emily. Come as You Are: the Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2015.
  5. Steege, John F., and Denniz A. Zolnoun. "Evaluation and Treatment of Dyspareunia." Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 113, no. 5, 2009, pp. 1124–1136., doi:10.1097/aog.0b013e3181a1ba2a.
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Celeste Compton, PT, DPT
Dr. Celeste Compton, PT, DPT, WCS

Celestine Compton, PT, DPT is a doctor of physical therapy at Origin with a board-certified specialization in women's and pelvic health. She continues to expand her knowledge and capabilities within the field of women’s health PT to provide her patients and community with the best care, advocate for her profession on local and national levels, and support the advancement of women’s health through contributions to research, public awareness, and education. As part of the Origin team, she hopes to do her part to raise the standard of care that all women receive at every stage of life and to improve patient access to quality care so that no individual, regardless of location, race, identity, education, sexuality, or economic status is left behind.

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