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why does my clitoris hurt
Illustration by John Muñoz
In this informative article (link below) Giddy writer Kate Daniel went looking for answers to the question "Why does my clitoris hurt?", and she reached out to me to shed some light on the issue. Here is a brief synopsis of the article with quotes from Kate intespersed with my own commentary. I also encourage everyone to read the full article at the link below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Answers to the Age Old Question "Why does My Clitoris Hurt?"

Anatomically speaking, the clitoris can be seen as the focal point of female genitalia. Most people are aware that it receives stimulation near the top center of the vaginal opening, but it also has legs (also known as "crura") made of erectile tissue that form a V-shape inside the body. Because of its scope and the high concentration of nerves it contains, it can receive stimulation in many ways, including externally at the vulve and deeper up in the vagina.

Combine this with the many other possible factors outlined below, and finding a solution to clitoral pain or discomfort can take a fair bit of research and reflection. These factors could include:

  • Any number of potential health related issues
  • Dietary problems and/or dehyration
  • Where you are at in your cycle
  • Perhaps most importantly, finding just what kind of stimulation works best for you and your anatomy

That said, here are two examples of some things to try from an excellent article on our blog entitled "New Year’s Resolutions for your Pelvic Floor | Do You Know Your Parts?":

  • Perform a monthly self exam of your genitalia with a mirror and notice what’s your normal: color, size of structures, color of your secretions, smell, tissue texture, etc. Use your eyes to look and also your fingers to touch the different structures and become acquainted.
  • By giving yourself regular self-exams, you can be better aware of changes and be able to get support from your healthcare team sooner when things arise.

The blog post linked above is not very long, but quite informative! I suggest taking a quick look if you haven't read it already, and when you're ready come right back here.

As the article at Giddy states, "The clitoris is the only organ in the human body exclusively for pleasure. Unfortunately, it can also become a source of discomfort and pain for some women. Pain in the clitoris can happen for many reasons, here are nine of the most common." So here we go:

9 Types of clitoral conditions

Various disorders directly or indirectly affect the vulvovaginal area, including the clitoris. The following list is not comprehensive but covers some of the most prevalent health conditions that cause discomfort, irritation or pain in the clitoris.

1. Clitorodynia

Clitorodynia, or pain in the clitoris, is technically a symptom, not a disorder. But it is one of the most common reasons patients seek help from her practice, said Heather Jeffcoat, D.P.T., president of the Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy and owner of Femina Physical Therapy in California. It is a subtype of vulvodynia (vulvar pain), she explained.

2. Clitoral atrophy

Clitoral atrophy indicates a clitoris that's shrunk in size, said Michael Krychman, M.D., an OB-GYN at HerMD in California. Orgasm intensity and the ability to become aroused are lost or diminished.

3. Clitoromelagy

Clitoromegaly is an unusually large clitoris. Although the clitoris naturally swells during arousal, it resumes its usual size when the arousal state is over. In people with clitoromegaly, the clitoris remains enlarged for reasons unrelated to sexual arousal or stimulation.

4. Vulvar dermatitis

An allergic reaction, or vulvar dermatitis, which affects the skin of the vulvovaginal area, isn’t uncommon. Seventy percent of women experience itching. Other symptoms include irritation and soreness.

5. Vaginal infections

Infections affecting the vulva and vagina frequently impact the clitoris, Lee and Krychman said. The most prevalent of these are candidiasis (yeast infections) and bacterial vaginosis. If you are sexually active, you’ll need to pass on sex until after you’ve treated your yeast infection. It can be passed to your partner.

These uncomfortable infections aren't classified as STIs. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis and urinary tract infections can affect the clitoris as well.

Common symptoms include:
  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Discharge
  • Redness
  • Discomfort during intercourse

The list of things to avoid is long: soaps, inserting a tampon, or using other perfumed feminine hygiene products. Skip over any products using colors, flavoring or other artificial additives.

6. Clitoral adhesions

Clitoral adhesions are when the preputial skin adheres to the glans clitoris, Krychman said. One common iteration is clitoral phimosis, an anatomical condition in which the hood of the clitoris is too tight or there is no opening for the clitoris glans to protrude.

7. Autoimmunity

Lichen sclerosus and lichen planus are inflammatory dermatological conditions of the vulva. Lichen sclerosus can cause a host of symptoms, including severe inflammation, scarring, fibrosis or adhesions in the vulvovaginal area.

8. Nerve damage

Pudendal neuralgia or damage to the pudendal nerve, a major pelvic nerve, most often occurs due to childbirth or gynecological surgery. Strenuous physical activities such as hard bike riding or weightlifting can cause damage. This condition may arise from lumbar disc prolapse or spinal stenosis. Physicians don’t always know the cause.

9. Vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN)

Abnormal tissue development, or vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia, appears on external genitalia, such as the clitoris and surrounding area. Typically, it's caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) and may appear alongside genital warts. Some people with VIN experience no symptoms, while others experience itching, soreness and painful sex, Lee said.

The bottom line

When you experience pain in your clitoris, you don’t have to grit your teeth and bear it. Speak with a healthcare professional for the correct diagnosis. Some treatment options may be as simple as visiting a physical therapist or changing the type of feminine hygiene products you use.

There is a lot more to the question "Why does my clitoris hurt?" in the full article at the Giddy website, as well as our own archive of articles that cover the clitoris here.

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What Our Patients Have to Say

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Testimonial by Jackie W.

I was in multiple car accidents a decade ago, and I have been to many physical therapists through the years without success. They found the root of my lower back pain problems and after nearly a decade of barely being able to walk I finally can again without pain. They are also the best pelvic floor pts and the only ones who found the connection between my pelvic floor and lower back problems. If you need help with physical pain, they are your answer.

-- Jackie W., 1/19/17 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

Testimonial by T.H.

I started seeing Heather in October 2014. For more than two years, I had been suffering from painful urinary tract infection type symptoms after my bartholins gland surgery which included constant burning and urinary frequency sensation that led to more and more painful intercourse. I had made multiple visits to internist, obgyn and urologist's offices, went through a range of treatment with UTI and bladder frequency medication that included antibiotics, vesicare, estrogen cream, but nothing worked.

Read more: Testimonial by T.H.

Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

Testimonial by P.M.

I was hopeful but frankly skeptical when the doctor treating me for Interstitial Cystitis recommended that I go to Heather for physical therapy. Medication and diet helped control my IC symptoms, but I had never heard of physical therapy being used to treat IC. The education and treatment I received from Heather was a revelation. She explained that the pain I experienced with IC had helped create a cycle of muscle guarding which affected the entire pelvic area. I had no idea of the amount of tension being held there. No wonder my husband and I had not been able to have sexual intercourse for years!

Read more: Testimonial by P.M.

Testimonial by R.H.

No one could tell me why I was having pain during sex--sharp pain, not just uncomfortable, pain. I was referred to Heather Jeffcoat after researching several different options. I had seen a specialist who told me physical therapy would not help and my only option was surgery. I really didn't want to go that route, so when we got a referral, I decided to try it--it can't hurt, I thought. I am so glad I did. She diagnosed the problem right away, which was a relief in itself.

To know why I was having pain eased my mind immensely. And to hear that she could fix it without surgery was another relief. She said she could fix the problem in 6 weeks. I think it was actually 4 for me. She was very methodical, and treated me as an intelligent human being capable of participating in my own recovery. I would absolutely recommend her to anyone. She did not try to prolong my session numbers, she worked hard to accommodate my schedule (and the fact that I had to bring a baby to sessions), and she was completely honest the entire time. It is so hard to find someone with these characteristics, much less a professional who is so good at what she does. She has my highest respect.

-- R.H.

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