Vaginismus, quite simply, is muscle spasm or tightness of the vaginal muscles.
Vaginismus may involve just the ”outside” layer of muscles, but often affects the ”inside” or deep layer of pelvic floor muscles as well. It may be there all the time (“tight vaginal muscles”). Or, the muscles may only tense up when the area is touched or when something tries to come in to the vagina. This could be a tampon, the speculum for your Pap Smear, or your partner’s finger or penis.
Common symptoms of vaginismus include:
- Finding sex difficult or impossible due to pain or a feeling of ”blockage”
- Painful sex
- Painful Pap Smears, or being unable to have a Pap Smear due to the pain it causes
- Feeling like your vagina is ”too small” for sex
- Feeling like “nothing can go in” the vagina
There is a lot of talk about vaginismus being a psychological condition.While psychological factors can be a strong contributing factor in some women, vaginismus always involves a physical problem. This physical problem might be tight muscles, or being unable to relax the pelvic floor muscles, or both. Therefore, physical treatment is often required to overcome the problem.
A common treatment for vaginismus is the use of ”vaginal dilators”. Dilators are cylindrical objects in various sizes that are inserted into the vagina to stretch the muscles and ”get used” to the feeling of something being inserted. However, dilators are sometimes not the best place to start. In fact, sometimes they can make the problem worse. It is important to have an assessment performed by an experienced practitioner, who will choose from an array of techniques to find the most appropriate one for you.
Sometimes vaginal dilators will be the right place to start. Even so, you need some professional advice on which ones to choose. There is a great range of dilators available at the wonderful site Pelvic Floor Exercise. Once we know vaginal dilators are right for you, you might still dread the thought of using them. If so, you might find it useful to read my series on how to make using vaginal dilators less unappealing.
People often feel nervous about having an assessment for their vaginismus. Yes, we do need to do a vaginal examination, which is something you may dread. You can rest assured that with an experienced and skilled practitioner, this will be as gentle as it possibly can be. Having a comprehensive assessment is the first and essential step to recovering from vaginismus.