In some cases, there are multiple issues that can contribute to vaginal pain rather than just one cause. This is important for women to understand as they may need to determine and treat all of the factors that are contributing to the pain. For example, if a woman experiences pain from something such as vulvodynia, she may stop having sex because the discomfort level is too high. This in turn can contribute to a woman also developing vaginismus (an involuntary muscular contraction caused by the anticipation of pain). Furthermore, the inactivity of penetration can cause the vaginal opening to re-tighten (especially in women whom have not had intercourse or have had C-sections) causing even more pain when attempted.
One of the most effective tools in a situation like the one explained above is the use of a dilator which provides mild stretching of the vaginal walls to keep them pliable and able to withstand penetration. Using a dilator or speculum can help with any added anticipation of pain as well to prevent the vaginal opening from becoming too tight. In these cases, regular stretching of the vagina is important as inactivity will cause it to revert to a more closed state along with increased pain. It is also encouraged for women to stimulate her clitoris by rubbing it with her finger or even through using a vibrator for clitoral stimulation before using a dilator or speculum as it will help the vagina to dilate and lubricate in preparation for the penetration of the dilator. Finally, it is also important to look at health through medication side effects, allergies and sensitivities, nutritional intake and detoxifying the body which we will explore further in this article.
If the vagina is very tight, using a dilator or speculum should be done daily in small increments using ample lubricant. Full results can take a couple of weeks to a few months depending on the severity of the pain, contractions and tightening of the opening and vaginal walls. The good news is that after time, most women have seen remarkable results by using this method to stretch the vaginal opening and walls as well as reduce pain.
Treatments are best done alone without the added sexual pressure of a partner's needs; however, if a woman is comfortable with having her partner there, her partner can help. The important thing is not to have any sexual expectation to ensure she is relaxed. Many women find that doing stretching exercises in a warm bath or shower helps to further relax them.
Typical Causes for Vaginal Pain during Sex
There are a variety of things that can cause pain during sex, therefore, it is always a good idea to rule out health issues with a physician first. Examples of things that can cause painful sex-
Nutritional Assistance for a Healthy Vagina
Keep in mind that your nutritional intake influences your sexual functioning and if you are experiencing vaginal dryness, you may want to increase your intake of certain foods and supplements. It may be in your best interest to have a full blood analysis done to determine your hormone levels, micronutrient levels and even an anemia / iron panel done to determine what nutrients you are deficient in and what may be contributing to any vaginal discomfort and pain. Do not underestimate the power of what you eat when it comes to your sexual functioning as it can make or break your ability to not only be sexually active but your health in general. For example, one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in pre-menopausal women is an iron deficiency. This can cause heavier periods, increased cramping, loss of sex drive, loss of sexual arousal and lubrication as well as vaginal pain. However, taking an iron supplement if you are not deficient can cause serious health problems; so again, it is a good idea to have your blood work done to review the nutritional issues that may be causing problems.
Here are some examples of food that you may find helpful for vaginal pain-
In the case of losing one's virginity, the pain is typically caused by the breaking of the hymen, which is a thin layer of skin that covers the vaginal opening. The hymen can cover the vaginal opening a little or a lot and can have multiple openings. Sometimes, the hymen can be completely closed. This is called an imperforate hymen. When this occurs it is important to have a Gynecologist help to open the hymen to allow menstrual blood to be able to drain properly. Signs that a hymen is closed are severe menstrual cramping without any signs of menstrual bleeding as well as not being able to insert a finger or tampon into the vagina. If this is the problem, a Gynecologist can perform a very simple surgery by making an incision to open up the hymen.
Women may stop being sexually active for a variety of reasons such as a lack of a relationship, illness, surgery, etc. and the longer sex is refrained from the easier it is for the vaginal opening to become tight and resistant to penetration. This is typically and easily overcome by stretching the vaginal opening and ensuring that sufficient lubricant is used. Again, using a dilator or speculum has been shown to help keep the vaginal opening and walls comfortable with penetration.
Most people assume that low estrogen levels happen only in women who are going through menopause; however, there are other factors that can contribute to low levels. In younger women, this can often be seen in those who partake in excessive exercise, have too little body fat and struggles with an eating disorder. The low levels of estrogen can cause vaginal atrophy (a.k.a. atrophic vaginitis) which is when the vaginal walls become thinner and the surrounding tissue shrinks. It also decreases the production of lubrication and can cause, vaginal itching, soreness, pain during sex and bleeding after sex. Working with your medical professional to balance your hormone levels can be helpful through a variety of medical treatments and lifestyle changes.
Vulvodynia can occur at any age and is not related to menopause. It is often misdiagnosed as vaginal dryness, psychological issues and other non-related causes. Vulvodynia is the pain felt in the vaginal area which can feel like itching, nerve pain and burning when touched or stimulated and can be constant or intermittent pain ranging from being mild to excruciating lasting 6 months of longer. The medical community is generally still in the dark as to the cause but some research has suggested that allergies, excessive histamine, autoimmune disease, physical trauma, childbirth, surgery, neurological conditions, fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome can trigger the onset.
There are two types of vulvodynia-
Generalized vulvodynia is when a woman feels pain in different areas of the vulva (outside external area of the vagina) at different times. Vulvar pain may be constant or occur on occasion. Pressure against it may make the pain worse and can make sitting, riding a bike and sexual activities painful.
Vulvar vestibulitis is a syndrome where the pain in the entrance (vestibule) inside the vagina. It often is in a patch or band around the vaginal walls and is typically only an inch or two inside the opening. It is often seen as a slightly more pink or red patch and creates a burning sensation when stretched from insertion of tampons, sex toys or penis. It is particularly painful to have sexual penetration with this type of vulvodynia.
Decreasing Pain Through Stretching Exercises
Using a dilator or speculum has been shown to help reduce the intensity of symptoms over time through reports by many of our clients. Typically results are seen after 1- 3 months of using them on a daily basis. Using them in the shower or bath with organic coconut oil is one of the more popular ways to do these stretching exercises. When you use lubricants, we recommend using only waterbased, paraben free lubricants.
While these stretching exercises will help reduce pain, keep your vagina from tightening and allow sex to be less painful we HIGHLY recommend the reevaluation of one's diet with this condition as it can dramatically and quickly deal with many of the autoimmune symptoms women may suffer from when dealing with vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis.
You can also look for other symptoms of excess histamine reactions in the body to determine if this may be a factor within a vulvodynia diagnosis-
In addition, you can look for other symptoms of autoimmune reactions in the body to determine if this may be a factor within a vulvodynia diagnosis. Autoimmune diseases are influenced by a variety of factors such as bacterial or viral infections, prescription and illicit drugs, chemical toxins, environmental pollutants. They most commonly affect the joints and muscles, skin, red blood cells, blood vessels and connective tissue. Here are just a few examples of the over 80 different types of autoimmune diagnoses-
Fasting to Detoxify & Heal Autoimmune Responses
One of the most annoying things about having vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis is that most articles and doctors will tell you there is little to nothing that can be done. We say that is false, there are some things that you can do and that can give you permanent healing. The good news is that anyone can do it and it is free.
There is a helpful book called Fasting and Eating for Health- A Medical Doctor's Program for Conquering Disease by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. that outlines great results through fasting and nutritional changes. To summarize, the book explains that the body reacts against unwanted invaders such as a virus, bacteria and toxins by attempting to attack them and remove them from the body. In these cases, the body reacts with inflammation in a variety of body parts but particularly affected are the skin (through rashes) and the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, sinuses, lungs, vagina and rectum.
For example, vaginitis or prostatitis may be associated with the overgrowth of infectious microbes. However, because most physicians cannot identify these to explain such symptoms they are often unable to help. It certainly explains the lack of knowledge the medical community still has with regard to vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis.
It is fairly typical for vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis patients to end up going to many doctors and getting no help or answers on what can be done. However, Dr. Fuhrman has seen recovery from simply detoxifying the body through fasting and then starting a healthy diet.
His fasting recommendations are 48 hours for women and 72 hours for men while drinking only water during the fast. It is not recommended to fast longer than this unless you are under the care of a physician so that they can determine how your body is handling the fast. However, we always recommend first discussing this with your doctor as some people should not fast unless supervised by their doctor such as AIDS patients. Dr. Fuhrman's book does indicate that some of the more severe cases can fast for 3-5 weeks drinking a minimum of a quart of water per day to see results, but again, this must be doctor supervised. The good news is that these healing results have been shown to be permanent after a fast.
Why fasting? Simply put, it allows your body to detoxify and heal on a level that it cannot when you are eating food because when you eat your body is always applying that cellular energy to digesting and processing food rather than being able to completely heal your body especially with health issues like autoimmune diseases, leaky gut, migraines, heart disease and more. When the body is allowed to put cellular efforts elsewhere it is able to heal itself.
Dr. Fuhrman recommends only water during a fast as anything else (such a juice, herbs, vitamins) will keep the body from completely fulfilling the process where the body is able to deplete glycogen reserves and allow the liver to produce large quantities of ketones which simply put helps breakdown fatty tissue and remove atheromas and toxins in the body which may spark reactions like generalized vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis.
If you decide you want to fast, we recommend that you have a plan in place before you begin. This means, discussing this with your doctor, having someone who can monitor you if you need help, making sure that you are able to rest during a fast and that you restrict your activity. Finally we recommend that you have a nutritionally dense diet planned that you follow up with after the fast. It is important that you do not return to eating large amounts right away, that you avoid salt, spicy foods and other things that may upset your stomach after a fast. Having a few bites of watermelon or sipping on a green smoothie are examples of what may be best to start with after a fast.
Important Nutrition Changes
An example of someone with excessive histamine was seen in the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead when the star of the movie Joe Cross had such reactions and was being treated with steroids. After he changed his diet to a healthy one, all symptoms disappeared and he no longer needed medication. This can happen in women and it can affect the vagina as friction to the skin is typically what stimulates the histamine reactions and pain in autoimmune reactions and vaginal penetration is a form of friction. Please note that we do not recommend juicing or juice diets like the one outlined in the movie Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead because the fiber is important to consume so blending smoothies is better when you want to drink your food. We highly recommend green smoothies (using dark leafy greens and berries) at least once a day.
Foods that are particularly powerful and negative in the way they impact autoimmune and histamine levels are cheeses, vinegar, alcohol, pickled vegetables such as sauerkraut, fermented soy and processed meats such a lunch meats, hot dogs, etc. In addition to diet, looking at any medications one is taking is important as common pain killers such as aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as well as some antibiotics, diuretics, and antidepressants can affect histamine levels.
The general approach to healthy eating is making sure to eat nutrient dense foods to provide your body with the fuel it needs to not just survive but thrive. The most honest, fact and science based books that we recommend are any of those written by Joel Fuhrman M.D. We recommend the book Super Immunity for those looking to improve their health and Eat to Live and The End of Dieting for those looking to improve health and lose weight. There is also a great cookbook that he has (although there are recipes in the back of most of his books) called The Eat to Live Cookbook. Those who are familiar with Dr. Fuhrman's work know he calls eating this way being a nutritarian and primarily recommends eating greens, beans, onions, mushrooms, berries and seeds or as he likes to use the acronym - GBOMBS.
Another author we highly recommend is Michael Greger, M.D. whose book How Not To Die is exceptional and quite informative. He also has a great website called nutritionfacts.org for nutritional information.
To summarize, using a dilator, changing your diet and using fasting as a tool may be the best and most permanent ways to heal vulvodynia and vulvar vestibulitis.
In addition to massage techniques that can relax the surrounding muscles in the legs, hips and abdomen you can relax your Kegel (PC) muscles as well. Here are some tips on how to do that-
Once you have done this for a week, move up in size by adding another finger, using a larger part of your dilator or a larger dildo. It make take several weeks before you are comfortable enough to move up in sizes, but take your time and do not put pressure on yourself psychologically to move faster than your body is ready. Play relaxing music, do it by candle light or whatever else may relax you during these sessions. Allow yourself to listen to your body and let this time be about healing for yourself. For this reason we recommend doing these exercises alone as having a partner present can be distracting and put unnecessary pressure on you to perform and improve.
are general categories for helpful products so please take time to
review why they are helpful and what they can do for you. In addition,
we will also list specifically some of the products we recommend to
tackle painful vaginal penetration step-by-step and how to use those
products to help get you back in the saddle again.
Step-by-Step Guide for Overcomng Painful Sex
The third way to tackle painful sex is through nutrition. Please do not underestimate how drastically nutrition can affect things like autoimmune issues and hormone imbalances in the body that directly affect your ability to have pain free sex but to also enjoy it. As mentioned above the most honest, fact and science based books that we recommend are any of those written by Joel Fuhrman M.D. We recommend the book Super Immunity for those looking to improve their health and Eat to Live and The End of Dieting for those looking to improve health and lose weight. Also, Dr. Michael Greger who has a site called NutritionFacts.org and a book called How Not to Die is a really great resource.