Updated: Mar 7, 2020
New studies show that close to 10 million women suffer from chronic pelvic pain. Of these 10 million women, less than 70% will receive a proper diagnosis, and 61% will remain undiagnosed completely.
Still to this day, as Pelvic Health Physiotherapists, we see women who have had pain with intercourse for years with no clear diagnosis or treatment offered, even though the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology now recommends physical therapy for treatment of Vulvodynia. Often these women have been told, “it’s all in your head”.
What is Vulvodynia?
Simply put, there are two types of vulvar pain:
1. Vulvar pain that is caused by a specific disorder. This could be caused by things like infections, inflammation, nerve injury, trauma or hormonal deficiencies and is typically easily diagnosed with specific treatment options.
2. Vulvodynia, which is vulvar pain that lasts at least 3 months without a clear, identifiable cause.
Vulvodynia has many associated factors and may present differently in each woman.
Factors to Consider:
1. Is pain localized to a specific area of the vulva or is it a general pain?
2. Is the pain provoked by insertion or contact or is it spontaneous?
3. Was there a primary onset of the pain?
4. Does the pain have a temporal pattern (ie. intermittent, persistent, constant, immediate or delayed)?
How do Pelvic Health Physiotherapists Help?
What many people don’t know is that pelvic floor dysfunction (PFD) is a leading cause of Vulvodynia and this can be effectively treated by a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist.
As a Pelvic Health Physiotherapist we see women everyday that have pelvic pain, including pain with intercourse, who haven’t told anyone – even their partner. A Pelvic Health Physiotherapy will conduct an assessment that includes a thorough history and give you time to tell your story without the pressure or judgement you may feel from others. In addition, a physical assessment is completed that includes a movement and core stability analysis and, with client consent, an internal examination.
During an internal exam, there are no instruments used and, while it helps us to understand how your pelvic floor functions, if this is too uncomfortable for you, we can assess externally or by using a biofeedback machine.
What does Treatment Look Like for Vulvodynia?
Since no two women are anatomically alike, treatment varies between each woman. Generally speaking, a treatment plan for Vulvodynia may include:
Discussion about Pain and the Neurobiology of Pain
· Home program to calm the nervous system
· Movement to remind the body that it feels good to move
· Specific Pelvic Floor lengthening exercises
· Breathing exercises
· Use of lengthening tools eg. Dilators
· If helpful, joint treatment sessions with your partner
If you suffer from vulvar pain and suspect you may have Vulvodynia, stop suffering in silence and book an assessment today. We’re here to help.