What Causes Cramps After Masturbating? Experts Offer 8 Possible Culprits

Every editorial product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn commission.

You expect masturbating to feel good — during, of course, but also after, when you hope to enjoy the mood-boosting, stress-relieving, sleep-supportive endorphins and chemicals associated with self-love. Unfortunately, sometimes the feel-good activity is followed by more pain than pleasure.

"People can experience pain or cramping after solo sex for a range of reasons, including endometriosis, hypertonic pelvic floor, and underlying infection" says Heather Jeffcoat, doctor of physical therapy and author of "Sex Without Pain: A Self-Treatment Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve," who specializes in sexual dysfunction and incontinence. Less innocuous things, such as a bad sex toy, inadequate use of lube, and super-powerful vibrator can cause pain after masturbating, too, she says.

Ahead, an in-depth look at eight of the most common reasons an individual experiences pain or cramping after masturbating. Plus, exactly what to do to stop the pain and keep it from returning following future solo sex sessions.


Experts Featured in This Article

Heather Jeffcoat, doctor of physical therapy and author of "Sex Without Pain: A Self-Treatment Guide to the Sex Life You Deserve," who specializes in sexual dysfunction and incontinence.

Corey Hazama, DPT, a physical therapist and expert with Pelvic Gym, a pelvic health education platform created by the brand The Pelvic People.

Michelle Forcier, MD, MPH, FAAP, a gender-affirming clinician with FOLX, an online health provider.

Evan Goldstein, DO, a doctor in New York City who specializes in anal care and is the founder of Bespoke Surgical and author of "Butt Seriously."


Possible Reasons for Pain or Cramps After Masturbating

1. Your pelvic floor is tight.

A sling of muscles that run hip-to-hip and belly-to-back, "the pelvic floor muscles support your organs, contribute to sexual function and prevent you from accidentally leaking pee or poo," says Jeffcoat. Much like other muscles in the body, these muscles can become too tense and unable to relax.

Known as hypertonic pelvic floor, this tension can lead to discomfort and pain during — as well as following — sex. Other symptoms include lower back pain, pelvic pain, difficulty urinating or excreting, and spasms during or after attempting (or achieving) vaginal insertion, says physical therapist Corey Hazama, DPT, an expert with Pelvic Gym, a pelvic health education platform created by the brand The Pelvic People. It's also common for folks with a hypertonic pelvic floor to have a history of difficulty inserting tampons, or the inability to do so altogether, says Jeffcoat. But the condition can vary in severity, she says, so not everyone has the same symptoms.

If you're experiencing persistent pain during or after solo sex, Hazama it's essential to consult with a healthcare provider, preferably one specializing in pelvic health or sexual medicine. They can help diagnose the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include pelvic floor physical therapy, medication, or other interventions, such as pelvic floor exercises, vaginal suppositories, dilation, or pelvic floor massage, she says.

2. You have an underlying condition.

"Ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and pelvic floor scarring from vaginal delivery can all potentially contribute to pelvic pain, including pain experienced during or after solo sex," says Hazama. The exact sensation and location of the pain can vary based on which of these conditions you have, she says. But most are accompanied by additional symptoms, such heavy or painful periods, irregular menstrual cycles, and intense PMS symptoms.

"A gynecologist can rule out these conditions through tests like palpitating the muscles, bloodwork, imaging for fibroids, MRI machines, and organ mobility testing for adhesions," says Hazama. Once you have a proper diagnosis, your provider may suggest a treatment plan that can help you manage symptoms, such as those impacting solo and partnered play, she says.

3. You used an unclean sex toy.

If the sex toy you got down and dirty with was literally dirty that could be the culprit for your post-masturbation discomfort.

Using a sex toy that wasn't washed between uses can introduce bacteria into the body that throws off your internal microbiome and cause infections, such as yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis, says Michelle Forcier MD, MPH, FAAP, a gender-affirming clinician with FOLX, an online health provider. While symptoms vary between infections, it's common for them to cause discharge, irritation or itchiness, or a change in your vaginal odor; they can also make sex uncomfortable. (If this is the cause, it probably won't immediately cause pain; but a few hours up to a few days later, you may develop symptoms.)

A healthcare provider will be able to give you a proper diagnosis so you can take the appropriate antibiotic that will clear the infection right up, she says. And moving forward, be sure that any sex toys you own or purchase are made from a non-porous material, Dr. Forcier says. These materials which include medical-grade silicone, borosilicate glass, stainless steel, and ABS plastic can all be thoroughly sanitized between uses. Then, be sure to properly clean the toy with warm water and fragrance-free soap or a sex toy cleaner after each and every use.

4. You powered your vibe all the way up.

Got off with a super-intense vibe and now feeling a little numb down there? First of all, fear not. "Numbness after using a vibrator is not a cause for concern, as it's a temporary reaction to intense simulation that does not indicate permanent damage to genital nerves," says Hazama. Instead, post-vibrator numbness is a result of over-stimulation to and blood flow areas within the genital area, she says.

This numbness is temporary and should resolve on its own after a short period, she says. So, right now your move is to just wait it out. In the future, however, she says you can minimize the likelihood of numbness by starting with a lower-intensity, taking breaks between orgasms to allow your body to recover, and adjusting the setting of your vibrator when the numbness starts.

5. You didn't use enough lube.

Kept the lube in the bedside table? Welp, the lack of slide-and-glide could be to blame. "Insufficient lubrication can cause uncomfortable friction, pain, and even microscopic tearing," says Hazama. Depending on the degree of the chafing, this could lead to inflammation of the vaginal tissues as well as discomfort, pain, and cramping, she says. Likely, the discomfort will remain until the wound heals. However, you might use a vulvar ice-pack or CBD vaginal suppository to soothe the area.

You can avoid these kinds of issues in the future by squirting way more store bought lubricant into your play than you have historically, she says. If you're brand new to the wonderful world of lubricant, opt for a water-based lubricant like La Nua Unflavored Water-Based Lube ($20) or Coconu Water-Based Lube ($25) which are free from potentially-irritating ingredients (like glycerin) and totally safe to use with sex toys of all types of materials. (FYI: Silicone lubricants can't be used with silicone-based sex toy or device).

6. You have an anal fissure.

Given that the anal entrance and canal are lined with nerves that respond to touch with a whole lot of pleasure, you might add a little peach play into your solo routine from time-to-time. Or heck, every time. Thing is, the tissues lining the anal canal are thin and more delicate and therefore prone to tears, which are known as anal fissures, says surgeon Evan Goldstein, DO, a doctor in New York City who specializes in anal care and is the founder of Bespoke Surgical and author of "Butt Seriously."

Essentially a paper cut in the butt, anal fissures can lead to pain while going to the bathroom, as well as while sitting or during penetrative anal sex. Usually, they heal on their own within a few weeks, he says, but your healthcare provider can prescribe a prescription healing and pain treatment, as well as a laxative to keep your stools from continuously opening the wound. Ouch.

"Not using enough lube and playing with an anal toy that's too big for your experience level can cause excessive friction and therefore increase the risk of tearing," Dr. Goldstein says. As such, when you're masturbating anally it's essential to use lubricant and an anal-safe, appropriately-sized toy.

If you continue to have similar anal issues despite that, he suggests talking with a gastroenterologist, anal surgeon, or pelvic floor therapist as having pelvic floor floor dysfunction, tight anal sphincter muscles, or skin that isn't elastic can contribute to the risk of anal fissures. Luckily, these issues can be remedied through measures like pelvic floor therapy, anal dilation, and anal botox, he says.

7. You have a hemorrhoid.

Feeling a dull ache in your dumpy? A little itchy internally? If you just anally masturbated, an irritated hemorrhoid (or two) could be the cause.

While they are generally talked about like an annoying health condition, hemorrhoids are actually part of the anal anatomy that everyone has, according to Dr. Goldstein. "They are basically dilated veins that act as airbags in the ass, that work to protect the anal region from excess pressure," he says. Usually, these live in the tissues of our anal canals without you being aware of them at all. However, they can be irritated when they're asked to endure more pressure than they can handle, which can happen during anything from going to the bathroom or giving birth to anal masturbation and anal sex, he says.

The exact location and size of the irritated hemorrhoid(s) will impact exactly how it feels and looks, says Hazama. "The pain may range from being mildly uncomfortable to significantly painful," she says. Though, the pain is likely to increase during or immediately following anal penetration. Inflamed hemorrhoids can also be itchy, lead to bright red blood in your stool, and in some instances cause visible lumps.

Other, more-serious anal issues (like anal fissures!) can cause similar symptoms. As such, Hazama recommends consulting with a colorectal specialist if you haven't had hemorrhoids before. In the event that you do have a hemorrhoid, your provider will likely recommend limiting anal penetration until symptoms clear up. Plus, other at-home remedies such as over-the-counter creams like Preparation H, sitz baths that allow the anal area to become submerged in warm water to reduce swelling, and increased fiber and fluid intake. "Though, there are surgical procedures for severe or recurring hemorrhoids," she says.

8. Your past is popping off.

"People with history of trauma, which includes injury, sexual assault or abuse, gender dysphoria, or with other complicated life experiences can experience pain in the pelvic area, that can be worse after sex," Dr. Forcier says. In some cases, the trauma causes the body to involuntarily bear down during sexual encounters. This results in the pelvic floor muscles contracting and the vaginal and/or anal canal to close up in such a way that leads to muscular cramping or pain with penetration, she explains.

If this sounds like it could apply to you, she suggests working with a trauma-informed mental health provider, like a sex therapist or somatic bodyworker.

The Bottom Line

"The line between pleasure and pain for some persons can be very thin," says Dr. Forcier. "But pain is a message the body sends when it is trying to stay safe and healthy." So, if it's a sensation you're experiencing regularly, she says your best bet is to talk with a gynecologist who will be able to determine whether the pain is caused by an underlying infection or underlying vaginal condition, as well as refer you to a pelvic floor therapist if they suspect the issue is structural.


Gabrielle Kassel (she/her) is a sex and wellness journalist who writes at the intersection of queerness, sexual health, and pleasure. In addition to PS, her work has appeared in Shape, Cosmopolitan, Well+Good, Women's Health, Health, Self, Men's Health, Greatist, and more!