vulvodynia do_s

Vulvodynia: Do’s, Don’ts, + Symptom Management

In Vulvodynia by Stephanie PrendergastLeave a Comment

 By Stephanie Prendergast, MPT, Cofounder, PHRC Los Angeles

 

The diagnosis of Vulvodynia can be confusing, scary, and overwhelming. Studies show that vulvar pain affects as many as 1 in 3 women at some point during their lives and the medical community is finally getting better at diagnosing and treating it!

‘Vulvodynia’ simply means pain in the vulva. We consider ‘Vulvodynia’ to be an anatomic descriptor more than a diagnosis, there are a number of treatable causes of vulvar pain and effective care needs to be individualized. For the sake of this blog we are sharing general Do’s and Don’ts that can help the majority of people with vulvar pain regardless of the reason they have it. If you need more specific information about your specific case we are available online and in-person to help!

 

Do’s:

  • Always get tested if you suspect infection
    • Symptoms such as itching and burning can be caused by vaginal infections, however, assuming it is an infection without testing it can result in a delay of diagnosis! If the cultures are negative there are other reasons for the symptoms and these reasons will be missed if something that is not an infection gets treated like an infection.
  • Wash your vulva with water
    • Soaps contain irritating dyes and substances are not needed for great vulvar health!
  • Use a dilator when your tissues are healed
    • There is a lack of guidance about how to best use dilators and as a result people may start using them too early in their treatment plan or incorrectly. We recommend working with an expert to help make best use of the dilators when they are right for you. 
  • See a pelvic floor physical therapist
  • See a vulvar medical specialist
    • Most general gynecologists, internists, and urologists have not had advanced vulvar sexual medicine training like sexual medicine experts have. If symptoms are not improving it makes sense to seek out care from an expert that specializes in sexual medicine. ISSWSH and North American Menopause Society (NAMS) have Find a Provider lists and they are trusted sexual medicine societies!

 

 Don’ts:

  • Don’t assume you have a yeast infection
    • Always get tested to  know for sure!
  • Don’t use Over The Counter (OTC) yeast creams
    • Certain OTC treatments for yeast can cause allergic reactions and persistent vulvar pain. As we stated multiple times, it may not even be a yeast infection so we advise skipping OTC remedies, particularly those that can have persistent and problematic side effects
  • Don’t scrub your vulva with soap
    • Our vulvar tissue does not need to be scrubbed or subjected to soap to be healthy!
  • Don’t use a dilator if you have vestibulodynia
    • Sometimes the vulvar tissues are fragile and hypersensitive and dilators may not be therapeutic until the tissue health is improved. If something does not feel right it may be because the timing, size, frequency, or duration of dilator use is more than the tissues can tolerate in their current state. 
  • Don’t douche
    • This feels very 10 years ago. Unless douching is prescribed for a medical reason by an expert medical provider for a confirmed medical diagnosis the majority of people do not benefit from douching and in fact it can be harmful to our vaginal biomes. 

 

vulvodynia symptoms

 

  • FYI The majority of those with vulvodynia have tight pelvic floor muscles! Relaxing or ‘dropping’ these muscles can help alleviate pelvic floor tightness, reducing pain.
  • Inhalation lengthens our pelvic floor muscles, exhalation shortens them. Diaphragmatic breathing is a gentle, effective way to move our pelvic floor muscles without straining them.⠀
  • Heat and sitz baths can be soothing on vulvar tissues. Plus, baths rock. ⠀
  • Child’s pose widens the space between our sit bones, helping to lengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Try diaphragmatic breathing in the child’s pose position if you have tight muscles!⠀
  • Did you know that the piriformis and obturator internus muscles are part of the pelvic floor? Foam rolling these muscles can help reduce tension in the external portions which will in turn help relax the pelvic floor muscles and help reduce vulvar pain! 

Managing vulvodynia symptoms may feel like an uphill battle, but with the right approach and knowledge, it is possible to find relief. Remember, every body is unique and what works for one person may not work for another. It’s crucial to remain patient, open-minded, and proactive in your journey towards pain management.

Utilize the strategies we’ve discussed in this blog, such as lifestyle changes, pelvic floor therapy, and mindfulness techniques, and don’t hesitate to seek professional help when needed. The journey towards reducing vulvodynia symptoms is just as important as the destination itself. 


Vulvodynia Resources

Pelvic Pain Explained: Vulvodynia + Resource List

Vulvodynia, Vestibulodynia, and Vaginismus: what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Vulvodynia, Vestibulodynia, Vaginismus…What’s the Difference??? (video)

5 Tips to Reduce Vulvodynia Symptoms

A Biopsychosocial Approach to Vulvodynia

Success Story: How Diane beat Vulvodynia

 

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We are excited to announce our physical therapist, Molly, is now located in our 11th location in Columbus, OH. Now scheduling new patients- call (510) 922-9836 to book! 

Are you unable to come see us in person in the Bay Area, Southern California or New England?  We offer virtual physical therapy appointments too!

Virtual sessions are available with PHRC pelvic floor physical therapists via our video platform, Zoom, or via phone. For more information and to schedule, please visit our digital healthcare page.

Melissa Patrick is a certified yoga instructor and meditation teacher and is also available virtually to help, for more information please visit our therapeutic yoga page

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