What causes pelvic pain? Can it be treated?
Experiencing pain in the vulva or the vagina is more common than you might think. Pain can be a result of intercourse or even just when the area is touched or stimulated, and it can range from mild to severe. Painful intercourse — persistent or recurrent genital pain that occurs just before, during or after intercourse — may occur for a variety of reasons ranging from anatomical problems to hormonal issues, blood flow issues and sometimes even psychological concerns. It is not uncommon for women to experience pain during intercourse at some point in their lives, but treatments that focus on the underlying causes can help eliminate or reduce this common problem.
Pain which is not directly a result of intercourse can be due to a variety of factors including overactive nerves, infections or tight muscles. There are a number of different types of pain a woman may experience during sexual activity, many of which have physical causes that can be addressed with relative ease over a short period of time. After a thorough examination, our team will help identify the source of your pain, provide you with a diagnosis, and then develop a treatment plan.
If you suffer from pelvic pain, you may have been diagnosed with dyspareunia, which is essentially a “basket” diagnosis as it does not describe specifically what is wrong. If the physician notes that you have pain but has yet to determine what is causing the pain, she may diagnose you with dyspareunia.
If you are experiencing pain, your body is trying to tell you that something is not right. Our trained staff is here to listen, and to help you figure out what it is. In fact, we’ve helped hundreds of women no different than you take the pain out of painful sex.
If your partner is suffering from pelvic pain and you’re looking for support, please visit our Partner Page to find the support you need.
WHAT CAUSES VULVAR/VAGINAL PAIN?
There can be a variety of causes for the pain you’re experiencing. Insufficient lubrication may cause the penis to irritate the skin. Your muscles may be tight naturally or your muscles may have tightened due to age, childbirth, disuse and may need to be stretched. You may have been born with too many nerve endings in the area or there may be a nerve positioned in such a way that the penis pushes against it causing pain during intercourse. Perhaps even a muscular or bone formation has shifted causing pain during sex, or any other type of contact. Sometimes other medications you are on can dry out or irritate the mucosa in the vagina. Beyond those physical reasons, stress and psychological factors may also play a role.
Vaginismus is probably the most common pain condition we see. Women who suffer from vaginismus experience an involuntary tightness of the vagina during attempted intercourse. The tightness is actually caused by contractions of the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. Fear and anxiety often develop when there is this type of pain and that has to be treated as well. It is believed that 6 -12% of women have vaginismus. However, gathering reliable statistics for vaginismus is hindered by many factors, and the actual number might be quite higher. There are numerous ways to treat vaginismus: vaginal dilation, topical medications, anti-anxiety medications, vaginismus treatment under anesthesia to name just a few. Read more about vaginismus and treatment options.
Vulvodynia and Vestibulodynia
Vulvodynia refers to any pain in the vulvar area and women feel it when there is external pressure or attempted intercourse. Vestibulodynia, a subset of vulvodynia, is characterized by severe pain during attempted vaginal entry (intercourse or tampon insertion), tenderness to pressure localized to the vulvar vestibule (the ring of tissue surrounding the vaginal opening), and often redness of the vulvar vestibule. It is often a result of medications that have affected the tissue, a dearth of hormones needed by the area, overactive nerve endings or other medical conditions. It can almost always be treated by managing medications and topical products as well as treating any underlying muscles. Read more about vulvodynia.
Dyspareunia is a general term that physicians use to describe any pain during sexual intercourse. It is not a disease, but rather a symptom of a core physical or psychological condition. Oftentimes women who have vaginismus, vulvodynia or another medical condition are told that they have dyspareunia because a specific diagnosis has not yet been made. A woman suffering from dyspareunia may experience mild or severe pain in almost any area of the vagina or pelvic region including pain upon penetration, sudden pain after intercourse, deep pain during thrusting, or burning pain anywhere in the pelvis. Dyspareunia can be caused by any of the same factors as Vaginismus or Vestibulodynia, tight muscles, infections, and effects of medications. Dyspareunia must be analyzed and the specific reason or reasons for the pain must be identified in order to treat the condition.
Oftentimes, patients opt for non-pharmacological treatments such as MonaLisa Touch Laser Therapy for vaginal dryness and pain caused by menopause, or Low Level Cold Laser Therapy for provoked vestibulodynia. Maze offers both of these innovative treatments that are quick and virtually pain-free. Contact us to find out more and see if Laser Therapy is right for you.
Vaginismus: Savannah’s Story:
In A Patient’s Own Words:
“I can’t say enough about Maze! It changed my life with my husband.
After breast cancer a double mastectomy, I had an oophorectomy and began taking anti-estrogen meds. I was experiencing severe dryness and very painful intercourse. I spoke with many doctors about my issues including my oncologist, my gynecologist and my general practitioner. Not one of the doctors had anything to offer me. They told me to use a couple of over the counter solutions which I tried with no relief.
I was close to giving up hope when a friend of mine told me about Maze. They helped me get my sex life back. They really listen and had all kinds of advice. I can’t say enough about how they helped me. I want to tell any woman out there who thinks they won’t ever be able to have comfortable sex again to go to Maze. It does require some work, but they help you through it and end up with real results!”
– M, Age 47