I was recently told at my annual gyn exam that I have shortened pelvic floor muscles. The doc just mentioned it and then moved on. I didn’t think to ask for more info at the time. I’m a cis, straight woman, and though I haven’t had sex for years, I’m wondering if this will impact me when I do. Do shortened pelvic floor muscles make for painful or tighter intercourse? It would explain a lot if they do. Is there anything I should be doing about it?


Dear HnT,

Shortened pelvic floor muscles can create increased tension in the pelvic floor. Despite our weird cultural belief that the best vagina is a tight vagina, it can actually be very difficult to live with the kind of restriction that can accompany that kind of tension. It can make any penetration difficult and painful. If you’re experiencing pain during penetration due to shortened or tight muscles, there are a few things you can try at home.

Though it sounds trite, the first step is to use more lubrication. (I know! I always say to use more lube! But that’s because it can be really helpful in a lot of situations.) Using lube will reduce some of the drag that can be created by the tighter pelvic floor. If there’s less friction, there’s likely to be less pain with penetration, and that should help keep you a little more relaxed all over. Also, it’s common for folks in your situation to feel kind of torn up after sex, and the lube should help minimize that as well.

The next thing is to go slow and let yourself get really turned on. More foreplay will probably help a great deal. The vaginal vault actually opens in preparation for penetration when you’re turned on. Trying to enter too quickly can make those shortened muscles spasm, further increasing the tension of the vaginal opening. Let your partner know that you need time and attention to get ready for penetration, and be patient with yourself, too. And remember that you can start that foreplay on your own. Do the things that make you feel sexy. Watch porn, read erotica, take a hot bath, masturbate, fantasize – all of those things will help get your body into sync with your sexual desire.

Depending on how much tension is present, using vaginal dilators might help too. Dilators are similar to dildos (though some vibrate too) and usually come in a set of graduated sizes. The idea is to start with the size that you can insert without causing pain. Using a good amount of lube, insert the dilator and allow your vagina to slowly relax to accommodate it comfortably. Leave it in place for 15 minutes or so, and then remove it. You can do this every day until that dilator is easy to insert and you have no discomfort. Then move up to the next size dilator and repeat the process. Using dilators works in a few different ways. First, it gives your body practice staying relaxed when there’s something in your vagina. It also teaches your brain that penetration doesn’t have to hurt, and this helps minimize the spasm-response that is common with shortened pelvic floor muscles.

These are just a few things to try on your own. You may want to get some extra help or more ideas. For that, consider seeing a physical therapist. Pelvic floor physical therapy can be very helpful for learning how to relax those muscles and enjoy sex again. You’ll learn techniques and exercises that can help you throughout your life. Ask your nurse midwife or doctor for a referral if you would like to see a physical therapist.

Curious about cunnilingus? Anxious about anal? Do you have questions about queefs or problems with your prostate? Lucky Tomaszek is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee’s only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Send her an email at [email protected] and she’ll get back to you with an answer.

About The Author

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Lucky Tomaszek, LM, CPM, is the education coordinator at The Tool Shed: An Erotic Boutique, Milwaukee's only mission-driven, education-focused sex toy store. Most mornings you can find her balancing her cat and her keyboard in her lap, working to make the world a smarter, safer place for people of all genders and orientations.