Let’s talk about sex folks. Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that can be.Are you singing yet? Ok good, but let’s get real. Sex is a part of everyday life. By definition sexual intercourse means sexual contact between individuals involving penetration. Sex is often a taboo subject but I think it’s important to talk about. In the rehab world we talk about ADLs (activities of daily living). These are activities that we normally do such as eating, bathing, dressing, work, cleaning and leisure. Unfortunately we don’t usually classify sex as an ADL, but we should! Physically and emotionally it is part of what keeps us healthy for a number of reasons.
So let’s start by talking about some of the health benefits of sexual activity.
- Helps your immune system. People who have sex have higher levels of what defends your body against germs, viruses, and other intruders.
- Boosts your libido. For women, having sex increases vaginal lubrication, blood flow, and elasticity.
- Improves women’s bladder control. A strong pelvic floor is important for avoidingincontinence, something that will affect about 30% of women at some point in their lives. Good sex is like a workout for your pelvic floor muscles. When you have an orgasm, it causescontractions in those muscles, which strengthens them.
- Lowers blood pressure.
- Counts as exercise. Sex uses about five calories per minute, four more calories than watching TV.
- Lowers heart attack risk. During one study, men who had sex at least twice a week were half as likely to die of heart disease as men who had sex rarely.
- Lessens pain. Before you reach for Tylenol, try for an orgasm. Orgasm can block pain by releasing a hormone that helps raise your pain threshold.
- May make prostate cancer less likely. Men who ejaculated frequently (at least 21 times a month) were less likely to get prostate cancer during one study.
- Improves sleep. After orgasm, the hormone prolactin is released, which is responsible for the feelings of relaxation and sleepiness.
- Eases stress. Being close to your partner can soothe stress and anxiety. Sex and intimacy can boost your self-esteem and happiness, too.
Here are some symptoms of sexual dysfunction for both sexes:
• Inability to achieve or maintain an erection (erectile dysfunction)
• Absent or delayed ejaculation despite adequate sexual stimulation
• Inability to control the timing of ejaculation
• Inability to achieve orgasm
• Inadequate vaginal lubrication before and during intercourse
• Inability to relax the vaginal muscles enough to allow intercourse
• Lack of interest in or desire for sex
• Inability to become aroused
• Pain with intercourse (dyspareunia)
I would like to focus a little more on female dyspareunia (painful intercourse) as it’s something I see often in my practice. Dyspareunia is defined as persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after intercourse. Painful intercourse can occur for a variety of reasons ranging from structural problems to psychological concerns. Many women experience painful intercourse at some point in their lives.
Some symptoms of dyspareunia include:
• Pain on initial penetration (entry)
• Pain with every penetration, even with putting in a tampon
• New pain after previously pain-free intercourse
• Deep pain during thrusting
• Burning pain or aching pain
• Throbbing pain that lingers after intercourse
The physical causes of painful intercourse differ, depending on whether the pain occurs at entry or with deep thrusting. Emotional factors can also contribute. Some causes of entry pain may be insufficient lubrication, injury/trauma, infection, skin disorders, or a congenital abnormality. Deep pain could be caused by endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, uterine prolapse, retroverted uterus, uterine fibroids, cystitis, irritable bowel syndrome, hemorrhoids and ovarian cysts. Also certain surgeries, like a hysterectomy, or medical treatments for cancer, such as radiation and chemotherapy, can cause painful intercourse. Emotional factors are heavily intertwined with sexual activity and these can include mental health issues, stress, and a history of sexual abuse.
Fortunately there is treatment for many of these issues. Pelvic physiotherapists are specially trained to help treat the pain and dysfunction that accompanies many of these sexual problems. There are pelvic physiotherapists that treat women only but also many who treat men. If you can relate to anything mentioned in this article please don’t suffer in silence. Call and speak to our pelvic trained physiotherapist so she can help determine the best treatment for your needs.
For more information or if you would like to learn more you can contact Stephanie Brown, PT at our Halifax location. To book an appointment call 902-404-3668 ext. 2 or book online.