The Most Common Sex Injuries and How to Treat Them
How common are sex injuries, anyway?
Sex is supposed to be all about pleasure, not pain. But injuries from getting it on are more common than we think, Donnica Moore, MD, a Chester, New Jersey–based gynecologist and president of Sapphire Women's Health Group, tells Health. "We don’t have data on it because when people go to the ER for a sex-related injury, they usually don't say sex is how it happened," she explains. "They’ll very often say that they fell."
A 2018 survey conducted by euroClinix, an online health care consultation service in Europe, attempted to find more solid data for injuries that result from sex. According to the survey, just 17% of the 2,000 people polled said they'd suffered a sex injury. Of that 17%, just 2% of people said they'd sought medical advice for the injury—the rest neglected to seek medical care.
RELATED: How to Stock a Smart First-Aid Kit
Considering all the bumping and grinding that goes on during sex, it's no surprise that injuries sometimes occur—from next-day soreness in sensitive orifaces to more serious issues requiring a 911 call and an ambulance. Read up on the 10 most common sex injuries according to doctors who treat them, plus how to heal if they happen to you—and then make sure they don't strike again.
Vaginal cuts and tears
Vagina cuts or tears can be as painful as they sound. "Tears can cause pain, bleeding, and even infection down the line," says Dr. Moore. These surface cuts in sensitive vaginal skin often occur when a women engages in intercourse but isn't lubricated enough. The vagina isn't as elastic as it should be, and tears and abrasions result.
As uncomfortable as they can be, vaginal cuts generally heal quickly, even within hours after sex. If a day or two pass and the pain doesn't subside, or bleeding doesn't stop, check in with your doctor. Since you definitely don't want this kind of tearing to happen again, next time you and your partner hit the sheets, make sure you're thoroughly lubricated naturally (lots of foreplay usually gets your waterworks going) or with the help of a store-bought lubricant.
Anal cuts or tears
Like vaginal tears, anal tears happen when there's a lack of lubrication—this time during anal sex. Since the anus isn't self-lubricating, artificial lube is a must if you want to engage in anal intercourse or any kind of anal play.
The tears should heal within a day or two, but if you notice excessive bleeding or pain, it's wise to see a doctor. An anal tear can be riskier than a vaginal tear because the anus contains more potentially harmful bacteria. And since the tissues in the anus are very thin, bacteria and other harmful microbes—like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV, for example—can more easily enter through small nicks and abrasions and get into the bloodstream.
When it comes to sex injuries, Dr. Moore says she hears about vaginal soreness most often. "Soreness will recuperate with time," she explains. "But you have to stop doing whatever you're doing to help ease the soreness."
To treat a tender, achy, or stinging vagina after sex, take an over-the-counter painkiller like ibuprofen. Soaking in a lukewarm bath may help ease soreness, too. If you experience it a lot post-sex and aren't sure why, Dr. Moore suggests evaluating the circumstances. Are you being too rough? Maybe take the intensity down a notch. Does your partner do a lot of rapid thrusting without enough lubrication? If neither of these are behind the tenderness, you doctor can help you pinpoint the problem.
A lost condom
So your partner rolled on a condom before you two got into the swing of things, and now that you're basking in the afterglow, you realize the condom is...gone. Don't panic; use a finger or two (or have your guy use his) to try to fish it out. Can't get hold of it? Keep calm; anxiety will make your vaginal muscles tighten up, potentially pushing it out of reach. (But not out of your vagina, as it's impossible for the condom to go past your cervix.)
If it's still MIA, take a break. "If you can't remove an item right after sex, wait an hour, when the vagina will contract and make it easier to locate," says Dr. Moore. Should a day go by and it's hopelessly lost, make an appointment with your ob-gyn, who can easily grab it for you. Trust us, she's done it before.
You've heard rumors about this one, so here are the facts: A penis can't be fractured since it contains no bones—but the injury occurs when an erect penis is forcefully bent, which breaks the blood-filled chambers inside.
If you hear a popping and/or cracking noise during intercourse and all of a sudden your partner is wailing in pain, you could have a penile fracture on your hands. "Put an ice pack on it right away," suggests Dr. Moore. Then head to the emergency room. He'll need surgery to repair the damaged tissue.
A penile fracture is actually a rare sex injury, despite all the urban myths and comedies poking fun at the condition. One small study showed that it it's more likely to occur in the woman-on-top position, so if it's happened before and you want to make sure lightning doesn't strike twice, you might want to be extra cautious when you engage in this sex style.
Sex is a physical activity, so getting a charley horse or other muscle injury during the deed is a definite possibility. The thighs and calves tend to be body parts that cramp up during intercourse, but any muscle in your anatomy can cramp up and cause serious pain.
The best way to treat muscle aches and pains, says Dr. Moore, is by walking around, stretching out the muscle, and taking an over-the-counter painkiller. "It could take anywhere from a few hours to days to feel better," she notes. As for avoiding this injury, you could try switching positions frequently, so your body isn't in one pose for too long and the muscle won't cramp up as a result.
Bent or broken fingers
When you're trying out a bendy sex position and then hold it for a while, smaller body extremities, like your fingers, tend to take the brunt of things. "Finger injuries are surprisingly common because they get bent back or placed in strange positions, and that could result in a strain or break," says Dr. Moore.
If you notice post-sex pain, bruising, or swelling, put some ice on it. If the symptoms persist for a few days or the pain is crazy-bad, hit your doctor's office and tell her you're worried your fingers might be sprained, strained, or fractured.
Football players aren't the only ones who need to worry about head injuries. When the lights are out and the action is heating up, it's not uncommon for one partner to hit their noggin into the headboard, causing serious pain and dizziness. The injury could just be a hard smack with no lasting damage, or it may be a concussion, which is much more worrisome.
A bang to the head probably means you'll have to stop the sex session and grab some ice, which can help swelling go down. Watch for signs of a concussion such as headaches, nausea, and dizziness. If these occur, even a day or two later, see a doctor ASAP.
Having sex somewhere other than the bed can be fun and spontaneous. But if you do it on the floor, you might end up with rug burns. Although not serious, rug burns can sting like mad and leave you skin looking red and scratched up. If you do get a burn, disinfect the area with soap and water and cover with a bandage to prevent infection. Next time you want to get busy on the carpet, Dr. Moore recommends putting down a towel or blanket to avoid more damage.
The most serious of sex-related injuries is a heart attack. (A penile fracture is dire, we agree, but it's not life or death.) "It takes a certain level of fitness [to have sex], so people with preexisting conditions need to be aware," says Dr. Moore. If you've had a heart attack in the past or other major cardio issues, check with your doctor to see if you can safely perform the act.
Dr. Moore notes that many heart attack victims have their first one during sex, and that's especially true for men. Signs to look for include a sudden tightening of the chest or pressure in the chest, as well as nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath. But heart attacks in real life don't always resemble the dramatic clutching of the chest that happens in movies, so if you or your partner has any kind of chest discomfort, play it safe and postpone the action. If it persists or worsens, call 911.