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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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Heather is without exaggerating AMAZING! After years of trouble with a certain part of my body, in no time, she made everything change back to equilibrium and to what would be considered normal. She explains everything in detail and therefore gives you a better understanding of why things are the way they are, and how you can work towards turning things around. I would highly recommend Heather for any type of Physical Therapy. She has created her own "Method/Therapy" through years of studying (with some of the greatest practitioners), practice and breaking down the issues of her past patients, enabling her to fine tune her own system. I'm so thankful to have found her, and I'm especially grateful for the quick recovery I've achieved, after years of distress. If you cannot afford her, I recommend you purchase her book. Although it may not be Heather in person, it can still help you to get on the right path to recovery!

-- Alexandra B., 5/20/2015 via Yelp!

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Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has honestly changed my life. Before receiving treatment at Femina, I was going doctor to doctor to try and find the answer to my pelvic pain. It has taken me YEARS to find someone that can help fix this. It wasn't until my gynecologist recommended your clinic that I finally felt relief. My pelvic pain is almost gone, and granted I still have a lot more to work on with Laureen (my PT), my original problem is nearly cured. I am so grateful to her.

What is even better is she gave me practical exercises to do at home that were not tedious and provided instant (and lasting) relief. Although I mainly work with Laureen, my interaction with the owner (Heather) has been great. She is very generous, kind, and committed to her business.

It hurts to know there are women out there suffering who will never know or have the opportunity to work with women like Laureen and Heather because this issue is hardly talked about and this field is so rare. I hope more doctors and physical therapists see the value in this work and can relieve more woman of their pain.

-- Julie T., 12/4/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Carolina J.

I had tried Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy before (with another PT) and I had a really bad (painful) experience. A friend of mine and fellow patient, told me about Heather, Laureen and Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) and I decided to try again. I am so happy I did! Femina PT have, literally, changed my life. I was able to do again things I couldn't do for over 10 years!! Their bedside manners are impeccable, their knowledge and understanding make me feel comfortable to recommend this place to anyone in pain. Specially if you have Endometriosis. 100% recommended!!

-- Carolina J., 12/28/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by A.M.

Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

-- A.M.

Testimonial by Fritzette H.

I went to Heather after the birth of my third child. It was lucky, really, that I was referred to her, because my doctor had referred me to a surgeon for a possible hysterectomy or pelvic wall rebuild. Thankfully, I went to Heather before undergoing either surgery, she was able to fix the problem. She has studied extensively in women's health--even written a book about it--and was able to diagnose my problem, suggest a course of treatment (6 weeks), and then follow through with said treatment. By the end, as she said, I was as good as gold. Boy, was it worth it! Though uncomfortable to talk about, much less write about, it is worth getting the word out there. If you have painful intercourse, especially after birth or other trauma, the treatment may be as simple as Physical Therapy (with Heather, of course). I highly recommend her.

-- Fritzette H., 3/24/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by A.M.

Months after giving birth, it was difficult for me to go from a sitting or lying position up to a full standing position without feeling that I had to remain hunched over until a bit of time had passed to get fully upright. However, after taking Heather’s course, I learned exercises to get my body back to normal. She also showed me correct ways to lift and carry my son as well as put him in/take him out of the carseat and stroller. This class was really beneficial and Heather is a wonderful teacher who made me feel very comfortable.

-- A.M.

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