The 5 Best Stretches for Painful Sex

The 5 Best Stretches for Painful Sex

The 5 Best Stretches for Painful Sex

Katie Hunter, DPT with commentary from the Ohnut team

Pain during sex happens for a lot of reasons. One of the usual suspects is high tone in the pelvic floor. And I don’t mean high tone as in “6 Weeks to a Toned Beach Body.” When the pelvic floor (or its neighboring muscles, the hip/booty, inner thigh, and lower back muscles) are tense, they can’t stretch enough to comfortably accommodate something (like a penis or dilator) going inside. 

The pelvic floor muscles also need to be able to shorten and contract with climax and orgasm. If there’s too much tension in these muscles, they’ll be limited in their ability to stretch and contract, which can lead to pain.

The pelvic floor

The pelvic floor is a muscular hammock that lovingly cradles your bladder, bowels, and uterus and helps you poop, pee, have sex, orgasms, and babies. The pelvic floor (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Painful sex and penetration can also come from psychological factors which in turn worsen muscle tension. Our body remembers traumatic experiences and our muscles respond when they feel threatened. If you have experienced pain with sex in the past, your muscles may automatically prepare as if you are going to feel pain in that moment. 

Think about it like this: you’re an unathletic 13 year old child who was forced to play softball. Naturally, you get hit in the head with said softball. Now every time the ball comes towards you, you duck instead of catching it.

Stretching and pelvic floor muscle awareness are great ways to remind your body that you are safe and that sex should be pain-free!

5 daily stretches for painful sex

1. Diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor drops

This can be done with all of the stretches on this list. This is the “bread and butter” of pelvic floor relaxation and awareness. If you can master diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor drops, you should note a significant improvement in your pain during penetration.

Dr. Katie Hunter demonstrating diaphragmatic breathing with pelvic drops

  • First try this lying on your back with your legs supported and back relaxed
  • Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest 
  • As you take a full breath in, look for the hand on your belly to rise higher than the hand on your chest
  • At the same time, imagine your pelvic floor muscles are opening and dropping down towards your feet
  • This will feel like a very subtle release of pressure or tension around your openings (urethra, vaginal opening, anal opening)
  • As you breathe out, your chest and belly will fall and your pelvic floor will return to its original position
  • Do this 3-5 times during each of the following stretches

2. Reclined butterfly

This stretch targets the inner thigh muscles, hip joints, and pelvic floor muscles. When supported properly, this stretch allows these areas to open up and your pelvic floor to lengthen.

Dr. Katie Hunter demonstrating reclined butterfly

  • Start by lying in a supported, reclined position
  • Prop yourself up with a few pillows or big bolster
  • Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall out on either side
  • The closer your feet are to your groin, the bigger the stretch
  • Use towels, blocks, or pillows under your knees so that you feel a stretch in your inner thighs and are still supported to avoid pain
  • Hold this position for at least 1 minute
  • Combine this with body awareness or meditation for full benefits

3. Child's pose

Child’s pose is a great way to find length in your pelvic floor while stretching both the gluteal and lower back muscles. It is a safe, resting position that allows your back and hips to be completely relaxed while opening your pelvic floor.

Dr. Katie Hunter demonstrating child's pose

  • Start on hands and knees 
  • Push the heel of your hand into the mat/floor and slowly sit back on your feet
  • Relax your belly to your legs
  • To modify: spread your knees wide
  • Use a block, stack of books, or rolled up blanket under your hips to elevate your pelvis as needed for full relaxation
  • Hold this position for at least 1 minute
  • Remember to practice diaphragmatic breathing and pelvic floor drops at the same time

4. Deep squat

A deep squat also helps to find symmetry in your pelvis. It stretches the gluteal, lower back, and calf muscles. This position helps to feel a full drop in the pelvic floor muscles by putting your pelvic floor in a “slackened” position.

Dr. Katie Hunter demonstrating a deep squat with an inflatable ball

  • Use a bar, counter, chair, or exercise ball in front of you to support you in this pose 
  • Squat all the way to the floor 
  • It should be a stretch in the hips but completely relaxing for the rest of your pelvis
  • Focus on dropping your pelvic floor 
  • To modify: place a rolled up towel or block under your butt to support you, place a folded towel under your heels to help with balance
  • Hold this for 30 seconds to 1 minute

5. Legs up the wall

This position helps with stress and circulation which ultimately calms the mind and nervous system. Legs up the wall is a great position to find before or after sex! It stretches the lower back and hamstring muscles. 

Dr. Katie Hunter demonstrating "legs up the wall" pose

  • Position yourself so you’re lying flat on your back with your hips as close to the wall as possible
  • Place your legs straight up the wall with feet together
  • You should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings as you do this
  • To modify: place a folded blanket or towel under your hips to prop your pelvis up, you can also allow a slight bend in your knees
  • Hold this position for at least 1 minute
  • Focus on completely letting go of your lower back and pelvic floor muscles

Want to spend a little more time in this position? Check out Legs Up the Wall + Soothing Breath, brought to you by Pelvic Gym. 

Having pain during sex can be confusing and disheartening, and it might feel like it’ll never get better. But it doesn’t have to hurt, and there are some great exercises, tools, and treatments out there to help you along your way. From at-home tools like Ohnut and Pelvic Gym (click here to sign up for the free 7-day Ow to Oh Challenge), to finding a great pelvic floor PT, gynecologist, or even a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist

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