Painful Sex and Endometriosis: My Progress So Far

Painful Sex and Endometriosis: My Progress So Far
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It’s been a while since I’ve given you guys an update on my sex life, so I thought I’d give you a break from the COVID-19 coverage and fill you in on the gossip. (It sounds much more exciting than it really is.)

You might remember that several months ago, I started seeing a pelvic floor physiotherapist for my painful bladder syndrome and painful sex symptoms.

In our first session, the examination began externally before moving internally when I was comfortable and ready. (For any of you considering pelvic floor physiotherapy, this is how it should be done.)

Immediately upon starting the internal examination, my body tensed up and my legs began visibly shaking. That shaking then extended to my entire body. With my permission and while constantly checking in with me, my physiotherapist continued to carefully and gently examine me and found several trigger points and a very tight pelvic floor.

She felt that due to the pain and tension I was experiencing, our first few sessions should focus only on the external work to give the body some time to calm down before exploring any of the internal physiotherapy methods.

It’s been a few months since that first session, and this year, we began working internally. While I hadn’t experienced much of a difference during sex, I had experienced relief with some of my bladder dysfunction, and the difference between the internal examinations was huge.

During my second internal one, I didn’t shake, I had significantly less tenderness and pain, and fewer trigger points.

My therapist also asked me to breathe into my pelvic floor so she could observe how my muscles were relaxing, and both of us felt an active response — my muscles could relax.

Clearly this stuff was working for my body, but I was frustrated. I went away wondering if I could consciously relax my muscles during an examination, could I do it during sex?

The truth is I don’t think I’d ever really tried before. I had tried to enjoy it, I had avoided it, I had tried to will my way through it, and I had even tried different tools for alleviating painful sex, but I hadn’t actively tried to relax my body.

So I gave it a go. The next time I had sex, I experienced the same feeling that’s been worsening over the past few years — a tightening that feels almost like vaginismus but not quite, and a tenderness of my muscles, as if they’d been bruised all over and were swollen and sore. I breathed into my pelvic floor and consciously relaxed my muscles. I did this for about a minute, and the tightness and pain subsided.

Obviously I was thrilled, but healing isn’t linear. The time after that, my new trick didn’t hold up and the swelling and tightness won out.

Since then, my enjoyment during sex has markedly increased and I’m having less tightness the more I practice actively relaxing my muscles. Bit by bit, the tension seems to be shifting, albeit slowly.

But there’s still something that doesn’t feel like it’s improving. One of the things I’d always felt was odd about the pain I get during sex is how it’s morphed from muscular pain to pain in my skin. Of course, this isn’t unusual, as nerves become overstimulated and sensitive, and eventually the skin can hurt as well as the muscles. But something always seemed intuitively unusual about it.

And then more recently it struck me.

The swelling and soreness begins and worsens only during penetration. Sure, there’s a high chance that it’s because my body is trying to protect me because it’s fearful of the muscular pain, but I now question something I’ve never questioned before, and it should have been so obvious.

Am I allergic to latex or to an ingredient in the lubricant I use?

Sometimes I find that I can assume that because my health is quite complicated, the root cause of a symptoms is complicated or heavily wrapped up in my endometriosis. And while my painful sex clearly is in part due to this, what if there’s also a simple cause behind the skin swelling and irritation?

When I think back, this part of painful sex has worsened over the years since I changed products, but I just lumped it under the endo-painful-sex umbrella.

My next step is now to go on the hunt for some new products and test my theory out.

The lesson? Don’t skip the small stuff — it could make all the difference.

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Note: Endometriosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Endometriosis News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to endometriosis.

Jessica is the creator of This EndoLife.com, a website dedicated to supporting women with endometriosis, women’s health conditions and the associated mental health issues that accompany them. She is also host of This EndoLife Podcast, where she interviews guests managing chronic illnesses and mental health problems in their own unique ways and are helping others to do the same. Jessica has a background in the arts and charity, having spent the past six years working with organizations supporting women with endometriosis, vulnerable young people and survivors of domestic violence and trafficking.
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Jessica is the creator of This EndoLife.com, a website dedicated to supporting women with endometriosis, women’s health conditions and the associated mental health issues that accompany them. She is also host of This EndoLife Podcast, where she interviews guests managing chronic illnesses and mental health problems in their own unique ways and are helping others to do the same. Jessica has a background in the arts and charity, having spent the past six years working with organizations supporting women with endometriosis, vulnerable young people and survivors of domestic violence and trafficking.

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