Vaginal dilation for the treatment of vaginimus in women can evoke all kinds fears including the fear of tearing, breaking, and permanently injuring their vaginas. Some of the fears are rational (mild tearing/irritation is possible) however most of the fears are not. These fears are extremely powerful and can cause high levels of anxiety. Anxiety can cause excessive tension throughout the body. Tension of the leg, butt, back and abdominal muscles causes excessive tension of the pelvic floor girdle (the muscles of the vagina involved in vaginismus). A technique known as diaphragmatic breathing can help with systemic muscle relaxation and therefore with dilation.
The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle that forms the floor of the rib cage. It is the most efficient muscle for breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is a simple and important technique to learn because it helps settle down or relax the autonomic nervous system. This technique also helps quiet brain activity resulting in the relaxation of all the muscles and organs of the body. This is accomplished by slow rhythmic breathing concentrated in the diaphragm muscles rather than the upper chest.
Here are tips on how to do proper diaphragmatic breathing:
- Start by lying on your back or reclining in a chair in a relaxed position. Place your hands around the lower portion of your rib cage.
- Relax your jaw by placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth and keeping your teeth slightly apart.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose, letting your rib cage widen and your abdomen expand. Keep your upper chest, neck and shoulders relaxed as you breathe in.
- As you breathe out through your mouth, allow your abdomen and chest to fall. Exhale completely.
- Remember to breathe slowly. Do not force your breathing.
- Practice this for 1-2 minutes 3-4 times a day.
After practicing this technique in the office with me, I highly encourage my patients to do this breathing exercise before starting each dilation session at home. I have found diaphragmatic breathing to be highly effective when coaching my patients through the dilation process as well as with any anxiety provoking experience in life. Whether you have vaginismus or not, give it a try once you’re done reading this blog!