Sexual Health Q&A

What is clitorodynia (clitoral pain)?

Clitorodynia is a term for pain in the clitoris, a genital organ located in front of a woman’s vagina. The clitoris contains thousands of nerve endings, which makes it extremely sensitive. 

Most women feel pleasure when their clitoris is sexually stimulated.  But some women may experience chronic pain in their clitoris during sexual and daily activities.

Not much is known about clitoral pain. It might be associated with provoked vestibulodynia (pain at the entrance of the vagina), lichen sclerosis (a skin condition), or multiple sclerosis (a disease of the central nervous system).  It has also been linked to trauma, like surgery and vaginal childbirth. In some cases, women with clitorodynia have pain in other genital areas or in the pelvis or hips.

The pain of clitorodynia is sometimes described as tender or throbbing.  Episodes may occur two to three times a week and may last for several hours. Certain activities, like prolonged sitting, wearing tight clothing, urinating, and cleaning the area, often make it worse. Stress may trigger it as well.

Not surprisingly, clitorodynia can be quite distressing. Daily activities like walking and exercise may become difficult.  And sexual activity is usually affected.  Many women with clitorodynia avoid masturbation, foreplay, and intercourse because of it.

Medications and anesthetics applied to the area might help.  Some women get relief by resting or using a heating or cooling pad.

Women who experience any type of genital pain should talk to their gynecologist.  If the situation has interfered with their relationships or sex lives, seeing a counselor or sex therapist can be helpful, too.