Purpose Statement

This blog is intended to educate women on issues that affect women. Although we are all healthcare professionals, we are not here to give medical advice. Rather we hope this will encourage women knowing that help is available and give them the courage to seek help.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

PAINFUL INTERCOURSE AND THE ROLE OF PHYSICAL THERAPY

Sex was intended to be enjoyable, not painful, but for many women that is not the case. Many women silently suffer with a condition called dyspareunia. Dyspareunia is pain before, during or after intercourse. It can have a significant negative effect on the quality of life and may affect as many as 20-50% of all women. Some of the common causes of dyspareunia are injury to the pelvic region during childbirth, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, infection, adhesions and interstitial cystitis. Psychosocial factors such as depression or abuse can also be causes. Musculoskeletal dysfunction and specifically muscle pain and overactivity of the pelvic muscles is another cause. Overactivity means the muscles do not relax completely. Overactive, nonrelaxing muscles are painful to touch and may lead to spasms preventing intercourse entirely. Pain may be experienced as ache upon penetration, burning or tearing sensation. Depending on the causes, symptoms may be felt at the vaginal opening, inside the vagina or deep in the pelvis.

Treatment for dyspareunia depends on the underlying cause. When pain is caused by a musculoskeletal dysfunction physical therapy can help reduce the symptoms. The pelvic floor muscles and other muscles around the pelvis and abdomen often tighten in reaction to pain. This sets off a cycle that is difficult to break. It hurts, so you tighten up, you tighten up and it hurts more. The goal of physical therapy intervention for dyspareunia is to reduce vaginal pain by reducing overactivity of the pelvic muscles. Treatments may include external and internal pelvic floor muscle massage, relaxation training, strengthening and home exercise program.

Do you avoid intercourse because you know it is going to hurt? Do you suffer through intercourse because you don’t want to disappoint your spouse but never enjoy it like it is intended because it is too painful? If you are one of the many women who suffer from dyspareunia, talk to your doctor so you can discover the underlying cause and get the help you need and deserve. Don’t continue to suffer in silence.