Sexual Health

Why do I Have Penis Pain After Sex?

Author:

Zoe Miller
BSc, MD, MBChB - Medical Writer
on
June 18, 2024
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Take-home points
  • There are many potential causes of penis pain after sexual activity, including infection, structural issues, and the activity itself.
  • If you recently had sexual activity with a new partner, it’s important to rule out a sexually transmitted infection (STI) as the cause of your penis pain.
  • We recommending speaking with a doctor if you’re worried or experiencing frequent or severe penis pain.

Sex should be an enjoyable experience, so it can be concerning if you notice your penis is hurting during or after the act. Some men delay or avoid sexual activity altogether when having to manage penis pain, which may damage sexual relationships and overall quality of life.  

There are many issues that can cause penis pain after sexual activity, some more serious than others. In this article, we’ll talk through the most common causes of penis pain after sexual activity, how to avoid them, and when to seek help from a medical professional.

Sex-related causes of penis pain

Friction

Movements during sexual activity can create enough friction on the penis to damage the skin. You may notice your penis skin is cracked, red, flaky, itchy, or even bleeding.

The amount of friction on the penis typically peaks during anal sex due to the lack of self-lubrication, but may still be high during oral sex and vaginal sex without sufficient lubrication. Men who’ve been circumcised may be at greater risk of skin irritation.1 Using lubricated condoms or additional lubricant can help reduce the friction.  

Under normal circumstances, penis pain should only last for a few days after sex at the most. Try to avoid sexual activity or masturbation during this time, and if the pain continues for longer than this, you may need to see a doctor.

Intense sexual activity

Even with plenty of lubrication, penis pain is possible when you’re having sexual activity several times a day or for a long time. This is usually explained by excessive friction on the penis during prolonged and/or intense sexual activity, which should get better with rest.

During an erection, blood accumulates in the penis and is unable to flow back out. While this is normal when the penis is being stimulated, an erection that continues after sexual activity is known as priapism and is a serious and painful condition. You need urgent medical attention if it lasts more than 4 hours.2

Allergies

Some men are allergic to condoms, lubricant, massage oils, or even the materials used to make sex toys. Latex is the most common allergy. It’s rare for these allergies to cause an anaphylactic response—more commonly they lead to a skin condition called contact dermatitis, which may be painful.3  

Along with the pain, you may experience other symptoms like:

  • Itching.
  • Redness.
  • A rash.
  • Thick, scaly, or cracked skin.
  • Blistering.  

To treat this condition, try to identify and avoid using the product that’s causing the allergic reaction. If you’re not sure what it is, try eliminating things one by one while assessing your symptoms. When symptoms occur, consider using emollient cream to soothe and hydrate the irritated area, which can be bought from most local pharmacies.  

Penis pain and other symptoms in response to allergic reactions should clear up after a week or so. During this time, it is best to avoid sexual activity. If your symptoms continue, visit a healthcare professional.  

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and penis pain

In 2022, there were 392,453 new STI diagnoses in the UK, an increase of over 23% from 2021.4 Unfortunately, this means that there is a serious risk of an STI when having unprotected sex with new partners.

Many STIs, like chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and herpes, can be asymptomatic in men, meaning they often don’t necessarily cause symptoms. When men do experience STI-related symptoms, the most common are:5

  • Pain when urinating.
  • Discharge from the penis.
  • Pain and swelling in the scrotum.  
  • Pain deep inside the lower tummy.

Less commonly, pain occurs in the penis. If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your local sexual health clinic for screening tests as soon as possible. Should you test positive for an STI, they’ll be able to advise on the best treatment and help you inform your sexual partners.  

STIs can lead to a variety of other health conditions. Let’s explore some of them below, and other conditions that can cause penis pain.

Inflammation, infection, and penis pain

Urethritis

Urethritis is a condition where the tube that you pee through in your penis, the urethra, becomes inflamed, swollen, and irritated. It’s often caused by an STI, but can also be due to other infections, chemical irritants (like soaps or spermicides), or activities like cycling.6  

The main signs of urethritis are a burning sensation when urinating, needing to urinate more often, pain at the tip of the penis, discharge from the penis, itching from inside the penis, testicle pain, and flu-like symptoms.  

Treatment for urethritis depends on the cause. The symptoms may get better on their own, with time, but antibiotics are typically used if the urethritis is caused by bacteria. You may find it painful to have sexual activity during this time, so it might be best to wait until you’ve recovered. If an STI is the cause, you should wait until it’s been fully treated to engage in sexual activity again.

Prostatitis

Prostatitis is another type of inflammation, but this time it’s inflammation of the prostate—a gland found between the penis and rectum.

Prostatitis can lead to pain in the testicles/scrotum, penis, back passage, and lower tummy. You might notice you need to urinate more often, have pain when you pee, find it hard to pee, or have a temperature.7

You may be given antibiotics to treat prostatitis caused by an infection, such as an STI, otherwise the condition may be left to get better on its own. Sexual activity won’t make prostatitis worse, but you may experience pain during and after ejaculation.  

Balanitis

Balanitis affects the top, or head, of the penis, making it red, painful, and swollen. Men with balanitis may also experience:

  • Itching.
  • Discharge.
  • Painful urination.
  • Bleeding.
  • Difficulty pulling back the foreskin.

Often, balanitis is due to not cleaning underneath your foreskin properly. Treatment can therefore involve a good hygiene routine and medication for any infection (including antifungals for thrush, if that’s the cause). As balanitis is much more likely in men with a foreskin, circumcision may also be an advised treatment.8  

Sexual activity can make an already inflamed penis worse, leading to more pain, so it’s probably best to avoid sexual activity until the inflammation has improved.

Structural causes of penis pain

Phimosis

Phimosis is another condition affecting the foreskin, occurring when the foreskin becomes too narrow to be retracted. A tight foreskin isn’t always a problem, but it’s important to see a doctor if there’s pain or swelling. They may recommend circumcision in some cases.9  

During sexual activity, movement and stimulation can cause inflammation. The act of getting an erection increases blood flow to the penis, which can make a tight foreskin become an issue. Phimosis can cause pain after sex for both these reasons.

Peyronie’s disease and penis pain

A condition caused by scar formation under the skin of the penis, Peyronie’s disease causes a curvature of the penis. The amount of curving varies from one man to another, but the more severe the curvature, the harder it is to have sexual intercourse and the more likely it is to be painful. In turn, painful erections are commonly reported in men with this disorder.

Treatment for Peyronie’s disease usually involves a traction device or surgery, as medical therapy isn’t very useful. Learn more about the condition here.

There are many reasons why your penis might hurt after sexual activity. Frequent and/or intense sexual activity is the most common explanation but it’s best to see your doctor if you’re not sure. Many causes of penis pain will resolve naturally but some require medical or surgical treatment.

References
  1. Boyle GJ. Advances in Sexual Medicine. 2015;05(02):22–38.
  2. NHS. Priapism (painful erections). Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/priapism-painful-erections/ (Accessed June 2024).
  3. NHS Choices. Treatment - Contact dermatitis. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contact-dermatitis/treatment/ (Accessed June 2024).
  4. ‌UK Health Security Agency. Sexually transmitted infections and screening for chlamydia in England: 2022 report. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/sexually-transmitted-infections-stis-annual-data-tables/sexually-transmitted-infections-and-screening-for-chlamydia-in-england-2022-report (Accessed June 2024).
  5. Richens J. BMJ 2004;328(7450):1251–3.
  6. ‌Young A et al. Urethritis. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK537282/ (Accessed June 2024).
  7. Bonkat G et al. EAU Guidelines on Urological Infections [Internet] 2022. Available from: https://d56bochluxqnz.cloudfront.net/documents/full-guideline/EAU-Guidelines-on-Urological-Infections-2022.pdf (Accessed June 2024).
  8. Javaid A et al. Archives of disease in childhood - Education & practice edition. 2021 27;2020-321303.
  9. Information about your procedure from The British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS) What does this procedure involve? 2017. Available from: https://www.baus.org.uk/_userfiles/pages/files/Patients/Leaflets/Circumcision.pdf (Accessed June 2024).

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