Vaginismus is a condition that causes a woman’s vagina to spasm or squeeze involuntarily when something enters it, causing discomfort or pain.
While this doesn’t stop patients from becoming sexually aroused, the symptoms of vaginismus may cause anxiety about sex, making patients afraid of sex or any kind of vaginal penetration.
When a woman suffers from vaginismus, her pelvic floor muscles––the pubococcygeus (PC) muscle group, in particular––involuntary contract. This causes general muscle spasms and a temporary cessation of breathing. A woman with vaginismus may not be able to insert tampons or even undergo gynecologic exams.
Generally, vaginismus can be caused by physical and emotional triggers or both:
Below are some of the main emotional triggers of vaginismus:
Some of the physical triggers of vaginismus are:
Some medication may also have side effects that trigger vaginismus.
The symptoms of vaginismus vary from person to person. They may include:
Vaginismus occurs in two types that can affect women of all ages, primary vaginismus, and secondary vaginismus:
This usually occurs when women have their first attempt at sex. Penetration is difficult and partner may feel like they are “hitting a wall” at the opening of the vagina. The woman may experience both pain and general muscle spasms. Breathing may also stop temporarily. When the attempt at vaginal entry stops the symptoms stop, too.
Apart from sex, primary vaginismus may also include tampon use and gynecological examinations.
This may be experienced at any stage in a woman’s life and can affect even those who have no history of vaginismus. Often, it results from specific events such as menopause, infection, traumatic events, relationship issues, childbirth, surgery, or medicinal side effects, among others.
Even when the underlying condition is treated, secondary vaginismus may persist. Because the body has been conditioned to respond negatively to penetration, a patient may feel pain at any attempt to do so.
Diagnosing vaginismus is a complex process that may involve more than one specialist, including a gynecologist, sex therapist, physical therapist, counselor, and psychologist.
In a physical evaluation, the health specialist checks a patient’s medical history and performs a pelvic exam. Usually, the condition is diagnosed through elimination. The success of the diagnosis is determined when the underlying pain trigger is properly treated.
Vaginismus cannot be treated by surgery. In fact, this may end up worsening the condition. However, it’s 100% curable.
Just as the diagnosis may involve several professionals, treatment is achieved through a combination of tactics. These include:
Pelvic floor muscle strengthening exercises
Most commonly, a patient does Kegel exercises by repeatedly tightening and relaxing pelvic floor muscles. These are the muscles that control the vagina, bladder, and rectum.
The exercises help boost the control a patient has over contracting and relaxing pelvic muscles.
Insertion and dilation training
The healthcare provider may recommend supervised use of plastic vaginal dilators.
The patient inserts cone-shaped dilators into the vagina. The dilators get bigger to help easy stretching and flexibility of vaginal muscles.
This helps reduce the patient’s sensitivity to penetration.
Therapy and Counseling
The patient is educated about their anatomy and what happens inside her body during intercourse, including the muscles that are affected during vaginismus. Counseling may involve just the woman or both her and her sexual partner.
To combat the emotional triggers, the patient is taken through a series of exercises that help her identify and resolve emotional factors that could be contributing to the vaginismus.
The time for full recovery of vaginismus varies from person to person. If you have symptoms that suggest vaginismus, make an appointment and consult your doctor. If you’re diagnosed with the condition, remember that the better your participation, the quicker the treatment.
Contact Pelvic Rehabilitation Medicine if you are suffering from similar symptoms. We develop individualized treatment plans for our patients always without surgical intervention. In the most severe cases a patient may go through a serious of ultrasound guided trigger point injections to help relieve severe nerve compression. Please contact our office today for an immediate consultation.