Vulvodynia is a chronic pain condition with unexplained pain in the vulva ("dynia" symply means 'pain').
Sometimes this pain is confined to the vestibule and then called vestibulodynia.
The condition is sometimes also broken down into 'provoked' vulvodynia, which is caused by sexual activity or touch (even just tight pants or underwear) and 'unprovoked' which occurs without contact to the area.
Studies show that about 10-16% of women experience vulvodynia symptoms in their lifetime, but fewer than half seek treatment. Of those who do, the majority do not receive a correct diagnosis or effective treatment.
If you're dealing with vulvodynia or another cause of pelvic pain, there's absolutely hope. For practical, positive information and a supportive community, we established the Finding Pelvic Sanity online Facebook group - feel free to join!
Characterized by pain in or around the vulva, patients often describe the sensation as burning or sharp pain. Intercourse is often painful, and other common symptoms include low back pain, urinary urgency/frequency, and GI symptoms like bloating, constipation, or diarrhea.
Vulvodynia is a diagnosis of exclusion amde in the absence of infection, dermatological issues, or other causes. The pain has to last at least three months to be considered vulvodynia. For some, pain only occurs with contact ('provoked') while for others it is more constant ('unprovoked').
Physical Therapy for Vulvodynia
Generally the cause of vulvodynia is tight muscles in the pelvic floor irritating the nerves that run through the pelvic floor. These nerves cause pain to refer to the vulvar region. Physical therapy restores normal function to the muscles that are irritating the pelvic nerves.
Physical therapy also works to downregulate the nervous system to reduce pain and de-sensitize the nervous system.
Clinical trials have shown pelvic physical therapy is twice as effective as topical lidocaine in treating vulvodynia, and women reported their satisfaction with physical therapy as a 9 out of 10.
Wondering if you may have pelvic floor dysfunction? Take the free Cozean Pelvic Health Screening Protocol!
At PelvicSanity, we support patients beyond the walls of our own clinic in Southern California. We offer an Out-of-Town program, remote consultations, and a Facebook support group for patients called Finding Pelvic Sanity.
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity Physical Therapy in Orange County, CA. PelvicSanity treats patients from all over the world with remote consultations and the Immersive Out of Town Program. She also runs Pelvic PT Rising, training other pelvic PTs to better serve patients.
Named Physical Therapist of the Year, Dr. Nicole is author of the award-winning book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Her passion is helping those with pelvic health issues - regardless of where they live - find lasting relief.