According to the National Vulvodynia Association, vulvodynia is chronic pain in the vagina with no exact cause. (1) The searing, burning pain occurs in the area outside the opening of the vagina known as the vulvar and can affect the external genitals, too.
For some women, the vulvar pain is intermittent, while for others, the pelvic pain is constant, making everything from sexual intercourse to having a pelvic exam painful. Women can also experience vulvodynia while sitting for long periods and wearing tight clothing. Living each day with vulvodynia brings untold hardships on mental health and relationships. The good news is there are vulvodynia home remedies to ease the pain.
Home remedies for vulvodynia
While there are medications to treat vulvodynia, they can come with some side effects. The Vulval Pain Society in the UK suggests that when choosing a vulvodynia treatment, it's essential to keep an open mind and consult with your health care provider for diagnosis and vaginal pain treatments. (2)
Vulvodynia pain has a direct impact on sexual health. Women suffering from dyspareunia (pain during sexual intercourse) and may start to avoid sexual intimacy altogether. (3) While there may be no direct cause of vulvodynia, speaking to a trained medical professional may help. Sex therapy, in combination with pelvic floor muscle training with pelvic wands or vaginal dilators, can be useful in relieving vulvodynia pain.
Stress management and psychotherapies
While vulvodynia causes physical pain, managing stress, and undergoing psychotherapy may alleviate vulvodynia symptoms. In one study, 70% and 80% of all participants reported less vulvodynia pain when engaged with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). (4)
CBT is a kind of psychotherapy that helps you identify negative associations and change them for the positive. (5) It enables you to stop avoiding being sexually active, increases your sexual desire, and encourages healthy sexual fantasies. CBT also teaches you stress management so that you stop worrying about poor sexual outcomes.
Healthy lifestyle changes
Diet and exercise are healthy living areas to consider when trying to overcome vulvodynia.
Healthy eating packs your body with vitamins and minerals, but further following a low oxalate diet may be beneficial. A low oxalate diet is the avoidance of certain foods with a calcium supplement (6)
Some health experts say the diet isn't helpful and adds further stress of having to restrict certain foods. Still, patients with chronic vulvar pain, lichen sclerosus, fibromyalgia, and interstitial cystitis have claimed to have less chronic pelvic pain.
Daily exercise is beneficial for relieving stress in general, but certain activities may further aggravate vulvodynia. Horseback riding, in particular, should be avoided. Focus on exercises that gently stretch and relax the pelvic muscles, such as yoga or pilates. When working, try to stand as much as possible to alleviate any pressure on the pelvic floor. (7)
Wear loose clothing
Tight clothing can aggravate the symptoms of vulvodynia. The reason is that constrictive clothing and fabric can press down on the vulvar region, causing pressure on the sensitive pelvic floor.
Also, the type of material can make a difference in your comfort level. Choose 100% cotton underwear as much as possible. Other fabrics can increase the burning and itching by blocking the airflow. You can also not wear underwear at night to avoid constriction.
Good bathing practices
When bathing, be gentle with your vaginal area and avoid having soap trickle into your private parts. Soap may irritate the vaginal tissues. Afterward, pat yourself dry with a clean towel. Some medical advice suggests using a petroleum gel or an organic lubricant to keep wetness from irritating your vulva. Also, choose personal care products that are natural without added scents or preservatives.
Engaging in sexual activities
Before becoming sexually active, protect your vagina with a water-based lubricant to make your sex life more enjoyable. After sex, urinate and gently clean and dry your vagina with a clean towel. If you have any vaginal itching or pain, you can use a gel pack to soothe the irritation and soreness.
Symptoms and signs of vulvodynia
The severity of vulvodynia affects each woman differently. There are two types of vulvodynia: localized and generalized. Localized is when the pain is in a specific place in the vulvar that occurred before or after you were sexually active. Generalized is chronic pain that affects all areas of the vulvar. Regardless of type, you may have some or all the following signs:
- Muscle spasms and throbbing
- Abnormal vaginal rawness and burning
- Vaginal itching
- Dyspareunia (painful intercourse)
- Vaginal discharge
Diagnosis of vulvodynia
If you suspect you have vulvodynia, make an appointment with your healthcare professional for diagnosis. You’ll meet with your doctor to go over your medical, health, and sexual history in detail. Afterward, your doctor will use a cotton swab to test the painful area of your vulvar and to take a sample of your vaginal discharge to check for vaginal infections. Once this is complete, a diagnosis can be made.
There’s no reason why women with vulvodynia should have to suffer in silence. Home remedies and professional care help relieve painful symptoms without any harmful side effects. You can be on your way to living a full life— free of vulvodynia!