Do you find that you have pain and difficulty inserting a tampon?
Is it a struggle to allow the Ob/GYN to use a speculum?
Have you experienced pain during intercourse?
Are you unable to have intercourse due to vaginal muscle spasms?
You may be experiencing vaginal muscle tightness, or a fairly common condition known as vaginismus.
What is Vaginismus?
Vaginismus is involuntary vaginal muscle tightness or spasming that occurs when attempting to insert something into the vaginal canal. It can be extremely painful with patients often describing symptoms as stabbing, burning, throbbing or “knife like” sensations.
Statistics show that 30% of women report pain with intercourse, however, it is difficult to determine the number of women suffering from vaginismus because women are reluctant to report the symptoms, or are unaware that this pain isn’t “NORMAL”. Many women experience vaginal pain beginning in adolescence and become so accustomed to living with discomfort, that it becomes their “normal”. They expect to have pain inserting a tampon, they expect pain with intercourse – so it never occurs to them that these actions should or could be pain-free.
At EMH, we want to make sure you are aware that inserting a tampon, getting a pap smear and engaging in intercourse should be absolutely pain-free! We have helped countless women of all ages tackle vaginismus. The key is to understand the muscles of the pelvic floor and to build a mind-body (neuromuscular) connection.
The muscle tightness you’ve been experiencing initially feels like it is completely out of your control, but luckily we know these vaginal muscles are voluntary just like most other muscles in the body. At EMH we will teach you how to identify, control, and relax the vaginal muscles using a combination of breathwork, meditation techniques, external stretching, internal vaginal stretching and dilators.
While the idea of using dilators (pictured below) may seem daunting at first, have no fear: an EMH Physical Therapist will slowly and gently guide you through the stretching process as well as initiating and progressing dilator use at a comfortable pace.
Tips for beginning treatment:
Seek treatment early and often for best results
A pelvic physical therapist can evaluate and identify if the source of your vaginal pain is due to muscle restrictions. Make an appointment for a pelvic floor evaluation at your earliest convenience. Begin physical therapy treatment to start the healing process. In many ways, the vaginal muscles are like all othe
r muscles that you would exercise and strengthen at the gym. Commitment and dedication are key. Plan on a minimum of 2-3 times a week.
Take 5 minutes out of your day to focus on breathing. Lying down on your back with your knees bent, take a slow breath in, allowing your belly to expand gently on the inhale and allowing the breath to escape slowly on the exhale. Mentally focus on “melting” the vaginal muscles and allow them to unclench.
Stretch, stretch, stretch:
If you have a tendency to clench your vaginal muscles, chances are you are holding tension in many other muscles groups in your body, especially the hip, thigh and butt muscles that attach directly to the pelvis. Taking 10 minutes out of your day for a quick and easy stretching routine will go a long way in teaching your body how to begin relaxing your vaginal muscles. Don’t forget to breathe!
Some Favorite Stretches:
Figure 4, Child’s Pose and Modified Happy Baby (all pictured below)
Herbenick, Debby, et al. “Pain Experienced During Vaginal and Anal Intercourse with Other‐Sex Partners: Findings from a Nationally Representative Probability Study in the United States.” The journal of sexual medicine 12.4 (2015): 1040-1051.