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Vaginismus: solutions to a painful sexual taboo

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Many women use terms such as ‘failure’ or ‘freak’ to describe themselves

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Vaginismus is often a problem from the start of a woman’s sexual life but for some it is a secondary problem, developing even though there may have been previous positive sexual experiences

Vaginismus is often a problem from the start of a woman’s sexual life but for some it is a secondary problem, developing even though there may have been previous positive sexual experiences

Vaginismus is a very common but rarely discussed problem. Most women I see with this difficulty will not have discussed it with anyone else, not even female members of their own family or girlfriends. The silence that surrounds the issue and the sense of shame experienced sometimes serves to compound the difficulty itself. Many women with whom I have worked will use terms such as “failure” or “freak” to describe themselves, wishing they were “normal” just like every other woman.

Before seeking therapy, they will often have suffered this distress over a long period of time, not feeling able to embark on or enjoy sexual relationships. The thought that they may not be able to conceive through intercourse is frequently a huge anxiety for these women.

What is vaginismus?
Vaginismus occurs when the muscles around the entrance to the vagina involuntarily contract. It is an automatic, reflexive action; the woman is not intending or trying to tighten these muscles, in fact it is the very opposite of what she is hoping for. Often it is a problem right from the start of a woman’s sexual life but for some it is a secondary problem, developing even though there may have been previous positive sexual experiences. In most cases, the woman is unable to use tampons or have a smear test.

What are the symptoms?
The main symptom of vaginismus is difficulty achieving penetration during intercourse and the woman will experience varying degrees of pain or discomfort with attempts. Partners often describe it like “hitting a wall”. This is as a result of spasm within the very strong pelvic floor or pubococcygeus muscle group. Spasm or tightening may also occur in the lower back and thighs.

What are the causes?
Vaginismus is the result of the body and mind developing a conditioned response to the anticipation of pain. This is an unconscious action, akin to the reflexive action of blinking when something is about to hit our eye. This aspect of vaginismus is one of the most distressing for women as they really want their bodies to respond to arousal and yet find it impossible to manage penetrative sex. The more anxious they become, the less aroused they will feel and the entire problem becomes a vicious cycle.

Vaginismus can occur as a result of psychological or physical issues. Often it is a combination of both. Psychological issues centre around fear and anxiety; worries about sex, performance, negativity about sex from overly rigid family or school messages.

Inadequate sex education is often a feature in vaginismus, resulting in fears about the penis being able to fit or the risk of being hurt or torn. There can also be anxiety about the relationship, trust and commitment fears or a difficulty with being vulnerable or losing control.

Occasionally a woman may have experienced sexual assault, rape or sexual abuse and the trauma associated with these experiences may lead to huge fears around penetration. There are physical causes too – the discomfort caused by thrush, fissures, urinary tract infections, lichens sclerosis or eczema and the aftermath of a difficult vaginal delivery can all trigger the spasm in the PC muscles. Menopausal women can sometimes experience vaginismus as a result of hormonal-related vaginal dryness.

Treatment
Vaginismus is highly treatable. Because every woman is different, the duration of therapy will vary but, with commitment to the therapy process, improvement can be seen quite rapidly. Therapy is a combination of psychosexual education, slow and measured practice with finger insertion and/or vaginal trainers at home and pelvic floor exercises. Women with partners are encouraged to bring them along to sessions so that the therapist can work with them as a couple towards a successful attempt at intercourse.

Vaginismus can place huge stresses on a couple’s relationship as well as their sexual life; therapy can help the couple talk about and navigate these stresses. This is particularly important for a couple wishing to start a family.

What do I do if I think I have vaginismus?
Make an appointment with the GP. It will be helpful to have an examination to out rule any physical problem and have it treated if necessary. The GP is likely to refer you to a sex therapist, a psychotherapist who has specialised in sex and relationships through further training. They have specific expertise in working with this problem on a regular basis. You can also refer yourself to a sex therapist but, because of the very complex and sensitive nature of sex and sexuality, it is important to ensure that they are qualified and accredited. Sex therapists in Ireland may be found on www.cosrt.org.uk

GEMMA’S STORY
Robert was my first boyfriend. We waited six months to try sex, mostly because I was a virgin and very nervous. My mother had always warned me about not getting pregnant and I think I was too scared to try. When we did try, it didn’t work, it was disastrous. We tried again and again but he could not get in.

Every time we tried, I ended up in tears and over time I started to avoid sex. Robert was really patient but I know that it was very tough for him and I felt guilty. We thought it was a phase and it would improve with time. It didn’t stop us getting engaged because we knew we were right for each other.

Eventually I got the courage up to go to the doctor who diagnosed vaginismus – the relief of having a name to put on it was huge. She referred me to a sex therapist. I was embarrassed even talking about it, but quite honestly it was a relief to finally discuss it all. She explained everything about my problem and started me practising with vaginal trainers. I even got to start using tampons, something I never thought I would be able to do.

Robert also came to the sessions and that was a big help. We were given exercises to do at home together that helped me relax a lot. I made a lot of progress over a couple of months and, finally, last Christmas we got to try intercourse again. Success! Our sexual relationship is completely different now, no more worries and lots more fun.

I feel as if a huge worry has been lifted off my shoulders.

Complete Article HERE!

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Sexual pain after cancer treatment an unspoken affliction for many women, UC Davis oncologist says

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Sexual pain is a common, but unspoken, aftermath of women’s cancer treatment. Doctors can be reluctant and patients too embarrassed to discuss it.

But it’s an all-too-real aspect of cancer treatment for women, according to Dr. Vanessa Kennedy, a gynecological oncologist for the UC Davis Health System.

Dr. Vanessa Kennedy, assistant professor in gynecological oncology, UC Davis Health System, Sacramento.

Dr. Vanessa Kennedy, assistant professor in gynecological oncology, UC Davis Health System, Sacramento.

“Some patients are two to three years out of treatment and they’re dealing with sexual pain and no one’s talked about it. Patients hesitate to bring it up because it’s a sensitive issue,” said Kennedy, who recently discussed the problem in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. Her co-author, Dr. Deborah Coady of New York University Langone Medical Center in New York, is author of the book, “Healing Painful Sex: A Woman’s Guide to Confronting, Diagnosing and Treating Sexual Pain.”

Kennedy estimates that about 50 percent of female patients with cancer – of any type – experience some form of sexual pain, due to physical changes caused by surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It can range from vaginal dryness caused by early menopause to anatomical changes that can make sex uncomfortable.

Some women feel guilty they’re even concerned about their sex lives, given what they’ve been through battling cancer. “There’s some guilt that they should just feel lucky to be alive and shouldn’t ask about these other things,” she said. But when sexual health is addressed, “They’re actually relieved to know they’re not alone.”

Twice a month on Fridays, Kennedy holds a regular clinic, seeing UC Davis patients who’ve been referred for post-cancer problems with sex. She works with patients on a number of interventions, including physical therapy, lubricants (even coconut or olive oil), vaginal dilators and couples counseling to re-establish intimacy.

Kennedy said doctors and medical students need to learn to be comfortable broaching the topic. “A lot of students and providers are still a little bit nervous asking about sex,” she said. “How do you get comfortable talking about these things? You just do it. It’s just like asking a patient about changes in appetite or changes in sleep. Sex is another thing (on the list). Get over it and ask about it.”

There’s a difference in how men and women cancer patients deal with sexual health, Kennedy contends. For men who’ve undergone prostate cancer treatment, there’s an emphasis on restoring their sexual function. For women, there’s often physical pain and a loss of intimacy, along with the added fear by some that their partners view them as less desirable. In some cases, where sex has become nonexistent, patients confide that their partners have threatened to leave or cheat on them.

Kennedy, who did fellowship training at the University of Chicago, which has a sexual health program for women cancer patients, says research on women’s sexual health issues is lagging, compared with that for men with prostate cancer. Next April, she’s hosting a national gathering of the Scientific Network on Female Sexual Health and Cancer, which promotes research and information for women patients and their providers.

“Sex is a quality-of-life issue and a core of our well-being,” Kennedy concludes. “We have to bring back the intimacy and make this a part of the body that’s associated with pleasure, rather than an uncomfortable, negative place.”

Complete Article HERE!

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Why Can’t I Orgasm During Sex? Chronic Pain And 5 Other Factors That Affect Ability To Climax

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Imagine this: You and your partner are getting hot and heavy in between the sheets. You’re feeling sexually aroused — but you’re unable to climax. In frustration you ask yourself: “Why can’t I orgasm during sex?”

The Kinsey Institute indicates 20 to 30 percent of women don’t have orgasms during intercourse, compared to only 5 percent of men who don’t climax every time they have sex. Men and women who are unable to sustain an erection or reach orgasm, respectively, are usually labeled as having some type of sexual dysfunction. However, the inability to orgasm could be triggered by several issues that range from physiological to psychological.

Below are six causes of why you have trouble orgasming during sex.

Tight Condoms

Condoms are often seen as an “evil” necessity that reduces sensitivity and sensations for men. The truth is condoms can inhibit male orgasm if they do not fit properly. A condom that is too tight can feel like the penis is in a chokehold, which can be distraction, and make it difficult to keep an erection. A 2015 study in journal Sexual Health found about 52 percent of men report losing an erection before, or while putting a condom on or after inserting into the vagina while wearing a condom.

Stress

High levels of stress impact your psychological and physiological health, which can interfere with the ability to orgasm. This makes it harder to concentrate on the sensation and relax during sex. Women with high salivary cortisol and stress levels have significantly less desire to masturbate or have sex with their partner.

Stress causes us to produce fewer sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, and more cortisol and stress hormones. When the body releases cortisol, a fight-or-flight response kicks in, and redirects the blood flow away from the sex organs, causing you to breathe shallowly.

couple-holding-hands

Depression

Depression affects your mood, and even the desire to have sex. A 2000 study in the American Family Physician found 70 percent of adults facing depression without treatment had problems with their sex drive. This is because sexual desire starts in the brain as sex organs rely on chemicals in the brain to jumpstart your libido, and change blood flow. Depression disrupts these brain chemicals, making sexual activity more difficult to initiate and enjoy.

Chronic Pain

More than 75 million people live  with persistent or debilitating pain, according to the national pain foundation, which can often lead to a low sex drive. Chronic pain sufferers find it difficult to feel pleasure during sex since the body hurts all the time. This is unfortunate since having an orgasm can alleviate some pains and aches.

Prescription Meds

Drugs tend to be among the most common causes of sexual problems. Prescription meds are responsible for as many as one of every four cases of sexual dysfunction. A 2002 study published in Family Practice found statins and fibrates (used in lowering LDL “bad” cholesterol) may cause erectile dysfunction, while later research has found both men and women taking statins showed increased difficulty achieving orgasm. The levels of sexual pleasure declined along with LDL cholesterol.

Negative Body Image

When you feel good about your body, you tend to feel better psychologically as well. The mind-body connection is imperative in sexual pleasure. For example, if you feel bad about your body, it;ll become more difficult to enjoy sex and have orgasms. A 2009 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found women between the ages 18 to 49 who scored high on a body image scale were the most sexually satisfied. Positive feelings associated with weight, physical condition, sexual attractiveness, and thoughts about our body during sex help promote healthy sexual functioning.

Complete Article HERE!

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Heightened Awareness: Anxiety Can Lead to Pain During Sex

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Clearly anxiety can be an obstacle to a healthy sex life and needs to be talked about.

By Carrie Weisman

clenched-fists

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The 22 Diseases You Can Heal With Passionate Sex

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by Adina Rivers

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The infamous Woody Allen once said: “I don’t know the question, but sex is definitely the answer.” And oh boy was he right.

It might not be new to you that sex can heal physical and mental diseases, but did you really know that sex can play an important role in the healing of all the following diseases? Some were definitely new to me and I am in this game for quite a long time now.

It might not be new to you that sex can heal physical and mental diseases, but did you really know that sex can play an important role in the healing of all the following diseases? Some were definitely new to me and I am in this game for quite a long time now.

According to Wilkes University, making love twice a week releases an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which helps to protect the body against infections and diseases.

Check out the following list of 22 diseases you can fight with passionate love making:

#1 Sex protects against prostate cancer

Research suggests that frequent ejaculations (at least five times per week) in males reduces the risk of prostate cancer.

#2 Sex helps with keeping fit

There is nothing like having fun (and having pleasure) while playing sports! Making love is good for your heart activity. It also helps to naturally tone the muscles of the body. That seems hard to believe, but while making love you burn about 200 calories in half an hour. If you make love three times a week, you can burn up to 600 calories in total. And it’s much more engaging and fun than a diet!

#3 Sex relieves headaches

During sex, a hormone called oxytocin; it increases the level of endorphins, acting as a natural painkiller. The body then goes into a more relaxed state.

Many people notice that their aches and pains (headaches, cramps, etc.) disappear after sex.

#4 Sex helps fight depression

Women who have regular orgasms are generally more relaxed, less depressed, also physically and emotionally more satisfied.

Sex assists with creating better sleep patterns and relaxes nervous tension by producing, serotonin in the brain – which controls mood elevation.

#5 Sex keeps you young

Sex is one of the key components to looking at least 10 years younger than your age! In his book, “Secrets of the super young,” Dr. David Weeks, a psychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland, compiled the lifestyle of about 3,500 people, aged 18 to 102 years. Respondents were having sex at least three times a week and they all seemed to appear years younger than their actual ages. These beneficial effects have also been confirmed by numerous other studies.

#6 Sex protects against incontinence

In women, regular sex promotes exceptional health of the pelvic floor, thereby reducing the risk of age-related incontinence.

#7 Sex heals the mind

Making love is a welcomed pleasure of life, an offering where we share physical closeness and depth. Making love is a healthy desire of the body, heart and spirit that fills us with energy, tenderness and life. It’s a way of communicating with all your senses and feelings. A meeting place where creativity intersects, healing and peace.

#8 Sex makes you happy

People who are sexually active are generally happier (which is great for the immune system) and less prone to depression.

#9 Sex protects against insomnia

Lack of sleep has a negative impact on our daily lives. For insomnia, experts recommend, among other things, to quit alcohol and caffeine, watch TV less often and take a relaxing bath before going to bed. Making love can be added to this list of tips for sleeping well. Men fall asleep almost instantly after sex, and toxins released during the act have a tranquilizing effect on women.

#10 Sex protects against diseases of the skin

Making love regularly releases a flood of hormones in the body, called “hormones of happiness.” They contain testosterone. With age, testosterone levels decrease. So having sex provides a good level of testosterone in the body.

This hormone plays another important role: it keeps the bones and muscles healthy, not to mention the youthful appearance of the skin.

#11 Sex protects against breast cancer

Orgasm can help to prevent the onset of breast cancer. An Australian study suggests that breast stimulation in women releases a hormone called oxytocin. The precise study states due to oxytocin being released in large quantities during orgasm, frequent sexual activity could have a protective role against this type of cancer.

#12 Sex protects against cardiovascular disease

Sex is very beneficial for your heart. A study at Queen’s University Belfast shows that making love three times a week reduces by half the risk of heart attack or stroke. In women, sex increases the production of estrogen, known to fight against heart disease. And there’s good news for men too: another study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health says that sex twice or more a week reduced the risk of fatal heart attack; 50% more compared to men who have sex only once a month.

#13 Sex improves esteem

It is known that as appetite increases eating; the more you have sex, the more you’ll crave it. To enhance sexual arousal, the body gives off a very large amount of pheromones, which, like an aphrodisiac, make you even more attractive for your partner.

Feeling wanted makes women and guys feel attractive and proves that it’s an excellent tonic for our self-esteem!

#14 Sex increases self-control

Having sex regularly soothes and reduces stress. It provides mutual fulfillment and self-confidence among both partners. A recent study in Scotland showed that sexually active people are more likely to keep their cool and manage stressful situations.

#14 Sex protects against Influenza and asthma

According to researchers, making love at least once or twice a week increases the production of antibodies (immunoglobulin A) that protects us from viral infections such as Influenza. Sex is a natural antihistamine: it fights asthma as well as hay fever.

#16 Having sex increases your lifetime

Sex not only makes you feel younger but research shows it can actually slow the aging process. When you reach orgasm, the body secretes DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone or prasterone), a hormone known to improve the health of the immune system, while also repairing tissue that helps keep skin supple. DHEA also promotes the production of other hormones such as estrogen, which can prolong life by improving cardiovascular health. This indeed proves that sex truly rejuvenates!

A 1981 study showed that the mortality rate among those over seventy years was lower among men who were still sexually active …

#17 Sex invigorates your pelvis

Kegel exercises involve contracting and relaxing the pelvic muscles. Experts recommend that women practice kegels every day to prepare for the demands of pregnancy. However, in order for results to be effective, your pelvic muscles must be exercised daily. Fortunately, there is another way to strengthen these muscles. In fact, without realizing it, making love tones your pelvis. And the more the muscles are toned, the greater the pleasure during sex is.

#18 Sex helps to protects women against mental illness

According to a study, sperm, when absorbed by a woman, assists with regulating her hormones and thereby reducing the risk of mental illness.

#19 Sex heals back pain

It has been shown in studies that vaginal stimulation has the effect of increasing tolerance to pain. Self-stimulation of the clitoris also exerts an analgesic effect. According to researchers, this type of stimulation can relieve pain caused by menstrual cramps, arthritis, back pain and various other ailments.

#20 Sex and kissing protects against cavities

Kissing each day keeps the dentist away. Saliva cleanses and decreases the level of acid which causes cavities and prevents against dental plaque.

According to a French study, analgesic, in saliva, called Opiorphin relieves physical pain and inflammation-related pain.

#21 Sex assists with easing the symptoms of Sickle cell disease

During intercourse, the heart beats faster and thus increases the oxygen level in the blood and the rate of blood flow. These two natural responses help to prevent sickling of red blood cells and thrombosis.

#22 Sex contributes to overall happiness

The moments of pleasure and affection that we share with our partner remains invaluable. These moments of close intimacy strengthen your relationship with your partner and with yourself.

Economists from the University of Warwick had fun comparing how sex and money contributed to happiness. After interviewing 16,000 people, the main finding is that those who are happiest are also those who have sex the most. And the impact appears to be stronger among individuals with higher levels of education. In addition, a higher income…

Complete Article HERE!

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