Vulvodynia is the occurrence of pain around the opening of the vagina or vulvar region. This pain often begins for unknown reasons and lasts more than three months.
Common symptoms include a feeling of rawness, burning, aching and itching in the outer portion of the vagina. Also, there is difficulty sitting, pain with sex and the inability to tolerate penetration of the vagina.
Vulvodynia can be constant or happens only when touched, which is also called provoked vulvodynia. It may be accompanied by a separate but related disorder known as vestibulodynia, which is pain at the entrance to the vagina.
If you experience these symptoms, it is important to arrange an examination by a physician. Though vulvodynia is highly painful and distressing, treatment is available and often consists of specialized pelvic physical therapy.
What Causes Vulvodynia?
The causes of vulvodynia vary by individual. However, it is usually preceded by an injury, trauma, or infection to the vulva or vagina. This may include:
- Muscle spasms or weakness in the pelvic floor muscles that support the pelvic organs including the uterus, bladder and bowel.
- An injury to or irritation of the nerves surrounding your vulvar region.
- A previous history of vaginal infections.
- The presence of sensitive skin or allergies.
- Hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause or endocrine-related issues.
Helpful Tips for Dealing with Vulvodynia
Simple changes to daily activities can help alleviate vulvodynia pain while you undergo treatment to address the symptoms. These include not wearing tight-fitting clothing, such as pantyhose or tight, stiff pants. Also, choose cotton underwear for comfort and breathability.
It is important to avoid harsh scrubbing and fragrance soaps to cleanse the genital area. Simply squeeze a washcloth with warm water and use a gentle, scent-free soap over the area.
Also, use gentle strokes with your bare hand to wash. Use fragrance-free laundry detergent. You should avoid douching or using scented wipes on the vulvar and vaginal region, as well.
Are There Treatments for Vulvodynia?
Pelvic floor physical therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that is the best line of treatment for vulvodynia. It utilizes biofeedback technology to train your pelvic floor muscles and nerves to relax and makes them less sensitive to decrease pain.
In addition, manual therapy helps to stretch and manage tender points in your pelvic floor muscles. Furthermore, an activity management plan can help decrease pain and re-train your muscles.
Additionally, you can use vaginal dilators or trainers to help train the muscles to relax and allow for pain-free penetration. The goal may be to be able to tolerate a tampon, medical examination, or pain-free penetration during sexual intercourse.
For more information or to find a pelvic physical therapist in your area, feel free to contact us.