Saturday, November 3, 2012
WHAT IS VAGINISMUS???
Vaginismus is the involuntary tightening of the muscles that surround the opening of the vagina causing penetration to be painful or impossible. Vaginismus may result from a combination of physical or non-physical triggers that cause the body to anticipate pain with vaginal penetration. The body reacts to the anticipation by automatically tightening the vaginal muscles to protect itself. This sets off a cycle of pain which is difficult to break.
With vaginismus, the mind and body have developed a conditioned response against penetration. The body has learned to expect pain with vaginal penetration which causes the pelvic muscles to contract to protect against potential pain. It is something that happens automatically. The problem is that tightening of these muscles actually causes more pain instead of protecting from pain. The contraction or spasms of these muscles causes pain or burning with penetration and may even prevent penetration all together. Many women complain of difficulty or pain with tampon insertion as well as pain with intercourse.
Retraining the pelvic muscles to respond differently to the anticipation of vaginal penetration is the key to treatment. It is important that woman learn conscious control of these muscles. There are both body and mind components to consider in the treatment of vaginismus. The goal is to resolve any triggers so that when penetration is attempted involuntary spasms no longer occur and pain is not present.
You may have also heard the term dyspareunia. To clarify, dyspareunia simply means “painful intercourse”. It is a general term to describe any type of sexual pain. This pain may occur with vaginal penetration, during intercourse or after intercourse. There are several causes of dyspareunia and vaginsimus can be one of the causes. Vagnismus is specifically characterized by involuntary tightening of the vaginal muscles with penetration.
One tool that is often utilized in the treatment of vaginismus is vaginal dilators. A pelvic floor physical therapist may recommend a home vaginal dilator program designed to eliminate the involuntary pelvic floor muscle contraction that occurs with penetration. Through the proper use of dilators, women can develop control over the involuntary contractions and decrease the pain associated with penetration. Some women may use the dilators for other purposes such as rehabilitative stretching of tissues post surgery or as a result of age related hormone changes.
If you are having difficulty or pain with any type of vaginal penetration talk to your healthcare provider. Please don't assume it is normal or that it is something you just have to live with. Seek the help you deserve:)