Vaginismus

Vaginismus is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles, which can make vaginal penetration painful or impossible.

ALL CONDITIONS
/
Vaginismus
Vaginismus
Anchor Health and Performance Icon
is this treatment right for you?

Your Guide to Understanding Vaginismus

What is Vaginismus?

Vaginismus is a condition that affects individuals assigned female at birth and is characterized by the involuntary contraction or tightening of the muscles in the pelvic floor, specifically the muscles surrounding the vagina. These spasms can make vaginal penetration painful, difficult, or even impossible, leading to significant distress and anxiety.

The exact cause of vaginismus is often multifactorial, with both physical and psychological factors playing a role. It is commonly associated with fear, anxiety, and negative emotions surrounding sex, often stemming from past traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse or painful medical procedures. Psychological factors, such as relationship issues, body image concerns, or performance anxiety, can also contribute to the development or persistence of vaginismus.

The main symptom of vaginismus is the involuntary muscle contractions that occur when attempting penetration. This can lead to pain, burning, stinging, or a feeling of tightness in the vaginal area. The severity of symptoms can vary from mild discomfort to severe pain that prevents any form of vaginal penetration. It's important to note that vaginismus is a real and valid medical condition, and it is not the result of a lack of desire or willingness to engage in sexual activity.

Fortunately, vaginismus can be effectively treated with a holistic approach. Treatment typically involves a combination of physical therapy, counseling, and education. Pelvic floor relaxation exercises, guided by a trained healthcare professional, can help individuals learn to consciously relax and control their pelvic floor muscles. Gradual desensitization techniques, such as the use of dilators or fingers, under the guidance of a healthcare provider, can also help in overcoming the fear and discomfort associated with penetration.

Additionally, addressing the emotional and psychological aspects of vaginismus through therapy or counseling can be beneficial. This may involve exploring underlying fears, trauma, or relationship issues and developing coping strategies to manage anxiety and stress related to sexual intimacy.

How can Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy help treat Vaginismus?

Physiotherapy services play a vital role in alleviating vaginismus, a condition characterized by involuntary muscle spasms in the pelvic floor muscles that can cause pain and difficulty with sexual intercourse. Through pelvic floor muscle retraining techniques, education, and self-care strategies, physiotherapists help individuals with vaginismus learn how to relax and control their pelvic floor muscles.

This can involve exercises such as Kegels and stretches to improve muscle strength and flexibility, as well as manual therapy to release any tension or trigger points. By addressing the physical component of vaginismus, physiotherapy helps individuals regain control over their pelvic floor muscles and reduce pain and discomfort during sexual activity.

What causes Vaginismus?

Vaginismus can be caused by a variety of factors, both physical and psychological. While the exact cause may differ from person to person, here are some common causes of vaginismus:

  • Fear and Anxiety: Fear or anxiety related to sex, often stemming from past traumatic experiences, can trigger involuntary muscle contractions in the pelvic floor, leading to vaginismus. Negative emotions associated with sex, such as guilt, shame, or performance anxiety, can also contribute to the development or persistence of vaginismus.
  • Previous Painful Experiences: Painful sexual encounters, traumatic childbirth, or medical procedures involving the vaginal area can create an association between penetration and pain, causing the pelvic floor muscles to involuntarily tighten in anticipation of discomfort.
  • Relationship Issues: Difficulties within a relationship, unresolved conflicts, or communication problems can contribute to stress and anxiety during intimacy, potentially triggering vaginismus.
  • Body Image Concerns: Negative body image, feelings of self-consciousness, or dissatisfaction with one's appearance can impact sexual confidence and contribute to vaginismus.
  • Medical Conditions or Infections: Certain medical conditions, such as infections, endometriosis, or interstitial cystitis, can cause pain during intercourse, leading to the development of vaginismus.

What treatments might help Vaginismus?

The treatment for vaginismus aims to address the underlying causes of the condition and help individuals overcome the involuntary muscle contractions in the pelvic floor. Here are some common approaches that can improve vaginismus:

  • Education and Counseling: Understanding the nature and causes of vaginismus is an important step. Healthcare professionals may provide education, guidance, and counseling to help individuals address any fears, anxieties, or misconceptions related to sexual activity and penetration.
  • Pelvic Floor Muscle Exercises: Performing pelvic floor muscle exercises, also known as Kegel exercises, can help strengthen and relax the muscles involved in vaginismus. A healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist, can provide instructions on how to properly perform these exercises.
  • Gradual Desensitization: This approach involves gradually introducing vaginal penetration using techniques such as finger dilation or the use of small dilators. Starting with smaller sizes and gradually progressing to larger sizes can help desensitize the body and reduce the fear and muscle tension associated with penetration.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT focuses on identifying and challenging negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to vaginismus. This therapy helps individuals develop healthier attitudes towards sex, address anxiety or trauma-related triggers, and learn relaxation techniques to manage muscle tension.
  • Use of Lubricants and Relaxation Techniques: Applying water-based lubricants during attempted penetration can reduce discomfort and friction. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises or mindfulness practices can also help relax the body and ease muscle tension.
  • Partner Involvement and Support: Involving a supportive partner in the treatment process can be beneficial. Open communication, patience, and understanding from both partners can create a supportive environment for overcoming vaginismus.

Signs of Vaginismus:

Vaginismus is characterized by involuntary muscle contractions in the pelvic floor that can make vaginal penetration or attempted penetration painful, difficult, or even impossible. Here are some common signs and symptoms of vaginismus:

  • Pain or Discomfort: Pain or discomfort during attempted penetration, such as during intercourse, using tampons, or undergoing a medical examination involving the vaginal area, is a common sign of vaginismus.
  • Inability to Insert Objects: Difficulty or inability to insert objects, including fingers or a penis, into the vagina due to the involuntary tightening of the pelvic floor muscles, can indicate vaginismus.
  • Feeling of Tightness or Burning Sensation: A sensation of tightness, gripping, or burning in the vaginal area, especially during attempts at penetration, may be present in individuals with vaginismus.
  • Anxiety and Fear: Strong feelings of anxiety, fear, or panic related to sexual activity or the anticipation of pain during penetration can accompany vaginismus.
  • Avoidance of Sexual Activity: Due to the pain and discomfort associated with vaginismus, individuals may develop a fear or avoidance of sexual activity or any situation involving penetration.

Symptoms of Vaginismus:

Vaginismus is a condition characterized by involuntary muscle spasms or contractions in the pelvic floor muscles, specifically the muscles surrounding the vagina. These contractions can make any form of vaginal penetration, including sexual intercourse or the insertion of tampons, painful or even impossible. Here are some common symptoms of vaginismus:

  • Pain or Discomfort: Pain or discomfort during attempted vaginal penetration is a primary symptom of vaginismus. This pain can range from mild discomfort to intense burning or stinging sensations.
  • Inability to Insert Objects: Individuals with vaginismus may find it difficult or impossible to insert objects into the vagina, such as fingers, tampons, or medical devices, due to the involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Tightness or Constriction: The pelvic floor muscles tighten involuntarily, leading to a sensation of tightness or constriction in the vaginal area. This can create a barrier and prevent penetration.
  • Fear or Anxiety: Anxiety, fear, or panic related to sexual activity or attempted penetration is common among individuals with vaginismus. This fear can contribute to muscle tension and further exacerbate the condition.
  • Avoidance of Sexual Activity: Due to the pain and anxiety associated with vaginismus, individuals may avoid sexual activity altogether or become hesitant about engaging in penetrative intercourse.
Physiotherapy
Anchor Health and Performance Icon
is this treatment right for you?

When is the right time to see a Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist for Vaginismus?

If you are experiencing symptoms of vaginismus or have concerns about your sexual health, it may be beneficial to seek the help of a healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist. The right time to see one of these professionals is when you are ready to address the physical and/or emotional aspects of vaginismus and seek guidance for its treatment.

Meet our Lead

Anchor Health and Performance Icon

The Anchor Difference

PATIENT-DRIVEN CARE

ONE-ON-ONE TREATMENTS

EVIDENCE-INFORMED PLANS

are you ready to move and feel better?

book your appointment today

Let's address your Vaginismus concerns together!

Physiotherapist Brittany Pereira working with client at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic Mississauga
Interior Lobby at Anchor Health and Performance Clinic in Mississauga