Treating pain is a large part of our practice at Maze Women’s Health. What I have come to learn, especially from our vaginismus patients, is that to reduce pain we need to address the fear of pain. I recall a patient who barely spoke English but very clearly let me know that for her (and so many others) “scared meant more than pain”. Strong thoughts and memories associated with pain tend to make us avoidant. Fear and anticipation can play a major role in how pain affects us and how long it sticks around; it can become the most troublesome part of our struggle with pain. Pain on its own is nothing more than a sensation and often can be endured. When we add fear “it becomes something far more threatening in the primordial part of our mind, something that is a danger to our existence”. There’s a powerful relationship between pain – related anxiety levels and the region in the brain that scouts the body for things that could be wrong.
To overcome vaginismus dilation treatment is a necessity. Decreasing fear of pain is also necessary. Sometimes, anti-anxiety medication can be useful to dial back the fear. Practicing self – management skills to connect the mind and body are needed as well. These may include: visual imagery, mindfulness exercises and learning to trust in your brain’s influence over your body, using “mantras” and often repeating these affirmations along with breathing exercises, accepting that even if there’s some degree of discomfort with dilation it will ultimately strengthen you and will become less uncomfortable. Also, working with a clinician who “gets it” is key.
Let’s take the fuel away from this vicious cycle.
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