Great question! Vaginismus (vaj-uh-niz-muhs) is a feeling of pain around the vaginal opening when something is going into the vaginal canal. This occurs because the muscles at the opening of the vagina tighten when there is something like a tampon, speculum (medical device used during a pelvic exam), sex toy, or even a penis during penetrative sex. Vaginismus can happen to anyone born with a vagina. If a person has pain with inserting a tampon or engaging in penetrative sex, they may have vaginismus. Sometimes the condition is caused by past sexual trauma, vulva injury, infection, or surgery to the vulva/vagina. Vaginal discomfort can also be caused from other conditions such as a yeast infection or a small opening in the hymen. That’s why it’s important to talk to your health care provider (HCP).
If you are diagnosed with vaginismus, have no fear, it can be treated! There are a few different ways vaginismus can be treated. The starting point really depends on how/why you may have developed the condition. For example, if you were a victim of sexual assault, it is best to begin by speaking with a therapist. Your HCP can help facilitate the partnership with the therapist, who will help you work through the emotions associated with such an event. If you have not experienced a sexual assault or you have already met with a therapist, the next step could be pelvic floor physical therapy. Pelvic floor physical therapy is done by a physical therapist who has special training in women’s health. In most cases, they will incorporate the use of vaginal dilators into their therapy. This will ultimately help stretch the vaginal tissues and retrain the muscles. With time, patience, and proper treatment, vaginismus should begin to go away.