Vulvodynia (vulval pain) is persistent, unexplained pain in the vulva. The vulva is the female genital area including the skin surrounding the opening of the vagina.

It can happen to women of all ages.

Vulvodynia can become a long-term problem that's very distressing to live with, but much can be done to help relieve the pain.

Symptoms

The main symptom is persistent pain in and around the vulva and vagina. The vulva usually looks normal.

The pain may be:

  • burning, stinging, throbbing or sore
  • triggered by touch, such as during sex or when inserting a tampon
  • constantly in the background
  • worse when sitting down
  • limited to part of the vulva, such as the opening of the vagina
  • more widespread – sometimes it can spread over the whole genital area and the anus

Some women also have problems such as vaginismus and Bladder pain syndrome (interstitial cystitis)

Having persistent vulval pain can affect relationships, reduce sex drive, and cause low mood and depression.

Pain in the genital area is often embarrassing to talk about and can make you feel isolated.

How can physio help?

A physiotherapist can teach you some pelvic floor treatment and exercises (such as squeezing and releasing your pelvic floor muscles) to help relax the muscles around your vagina.

Another technique to relax the muscles in the vagina and desensitise it involves using vaginal devices.

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