Connective tissue dysfunction in vulvodynia is often missed, and needs to be treated.

Confused about connective tissue? Picture a whole lot of fruit in a plastic bag, sitting in a bowl of jelly.

apricots, plums, grapes and so on. The fruit can be moved and jiggled around within the jelly, even within the plastic bag.

Now imagine a several layers of cling wrap around each piece of fruit. The wrinkles of the cling wrap stick to each other. The fruit doesn’t move so well. The jelly doesn’t get swished around so much, and hardens up.

Your muscles and organs are the fruit, and the connective tissue is the cling wrap.

If it gets tight and thick, it restricts movement. Any restriction of movement in your body, whether in muscles, skin, nerves or organs, can create dysfunction and pain. (The jelly is what is called the interstitial fluid of your body – the fluid you never noticed unless it increases, causing swelling and possibly pain and even abdominal bloating).

The connective tissue around the organs is called visceral connective tissue. Treatment of this connective tissue is known as visceral manipulation, and can be a very useful component of treatment of vulvodynia and chronic pelvic pain.

A specific type of connective tissue restriction will be very familiar to you:

The most common type of connective tissue restriction is a scar.

When scars are deeper in the body, they are often called adhesions (but they are the same thing by a fancier name). Connective tissue mobilisation is a brilliantly effective technique for tight scars and adhesions, which are sometimes playing a part in vulvodynia (especially when there has been surgery, such as an episiotomy or Caesarean scar, or endometriosis).

What does connective tissue mobilisation (CTM) feel like?

CTM feels like a skin-rolling type of massage. It can be very relaxing and soothing. It can also be quite uncomfortable, especially when there is dysfunction. In fact, if CTM doesn’t feel that comfortable, it’s probably a good sign you’ll benefit from it! Sometimes one side of your body will feel fine and the other uncomfortable – guess which one needs the treatment?

However, slow and gentle is the key. Too much CTM too soon can stir you up – irritate local nerves, irritate the skin, even cause bruising. But the right kind and amount of CTM is wonderful for freeing up tight tissues and helping them move the way they should, improving circulation and skin condition and helping to desensitise your nervous system. The health professional treating your connective tissue should therefore be very familiar with your condition – and especially with central sensitisation – and plenty of experience in treating it.

Getting treatment for vulvodynia?

Make sure you ask whether your connective tissue has been checked, and if it would benefit from treatment. Treating your muscles, nervous system and connective tissue together and restoring their normal movement and function will get you the best results.

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