But though sex-related injuries might be more common than folks may want to accept, they’re also completely preventable. According to certified sex therapist Shannon Chavez, PsyD, such sex injuries often stem from “unrealistic expectations around sex, [where] goals are lasting a long time and focusing on the duration and endurance of sex rather than the experience of pleasure,” she says. “With the proper education and awareness of how to address these issues right away and advocate for more comfortable and safer sex,” injuries of the sort are way less likely to compromise both a person’s sex life and all other facets of how you spend your time.
For more specifics, read on to learn three of the most common sex-related injuries that experts say they’ve seen—and how to prevent each from happening.
3 of the most common sex-related injuries, according to sex experts
1. Muscle soreness
“Both penis- and vulva-owners can get sore and achy after too much sex,” because, like any other muscle group, “genitals can get overworked and sore, causing discomfort,” says Dr. Chavez. “Vulvas can also feel swollen or inflamed from vigorous activity, causing friction and rubbing on sensitive tissue areas.”
To prevent muscle inflammation or soreness of this sort, Dr. Chavez suggests using lubricant in your encounters. Not being properly lubricated for penetrative sex, she says, can result in “irritation and chafing of the tissue [at the surface of the orifice being penetrated, which can cause] micro-tearing or sensitivity and susceptibility to infection,” adds Dr. Chavez.
In addition to lube, understanding which sex positions work for your body before the heat of moment can help reduce or avoid soreness related to sexual encounters, Dr. Chavez says. “Positions should be chosen based on comfort of both partners’ bodies, and [should be] realistic based on what your body can do—not what one may see in porn or media.”
Due to the nature of penetration—whether you’re using genitals, extremities, or sex toys—it’s possible that tearing can occur.
“Penetration causes friction, which increases chances of tearing. Avoid vaginal and anal tearing by making sure those areas are well-lubricated before any type of penetration.” —Shamyra Howard, LCSW
“Penetration causes friction, which increases chances of tearing,” says Shamyra Howard, LCSW, a sexologist with sexual-health brand Lovehoney. “Avoid vaginal and anal tearing by making sure those areas are well-lubricated before any type of penetration.”
If you’re penetrating someone using your fingers, scratching can also cause tearing, Howard adds. So, “prevent scratching by making sure fingernails are clean, clipped, and filed before any sexual play involving the hands and genitals,” she says.
3. Sore throat
Rough thrusting of the penis or other objects while performing oral sex can, unsurprisingly, lead to throat pain. In an effort to prevent that pain, people may be tempted to use numbing cream, which Howard couldn’t more strongly advocate against. Instead, she suggests mindfully paying attention to your body.
“Stop if the thrusting is too intense, and never use numbing cream, as that could cause serious injury.” If you use numbing cream, Howard says, it’s almost impossible to tell when you’re causing serious damage. “Feeling pain is the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. Always listen to your body.”
How to avoid these common sex-related injuries
Using lube and picking sexual positions that work for your body are two of the best ways to prevent soreness and tearing as a result of sexual activity. If you feel painful friction during partnered sex, tell your partner to stop and to reach for the lube bottle. “Lack of sex education around lubrication makes it something that is not properly used or asked for during sex and leads to discomfort or injury,” says Dr. Chavez, adding that asking your partners to use a lubricant—or change sex position—is “important for sexual health and satisfaction.”
In addition to using lube and staying away from positions that feel wrong for your body, communication is key for preventing most (if not all) sex-related injuries. “Communicate with your partner during sex,” Howard says. “Sex is not supposed to hurt—unless you want it to.”
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