What is vaginal spasm and how to manage it
Dr. Maria Castellas

Dr. Maria Castellas

Mar 01Vaginismus

What is vaginal spasm and how to manage it

What is vaginal spasm or pelvic muscle spasm?

Pelvic muscle spasm or vaginal spasm is the involuntary tightening of the pelvic floor muscles. When someone experiences frequent or chronic vaginal spasms, It is a sexual dysfunction. This is because the vaginal or pelvic floor spasms prevent the insertion of a penis, tampons or menstrual cups, sex toys, or even a finger or speculum during a  gynecological exam. These spasms can lead to pain or difficulty with intercourse, chronic pelvic or low back pain, incontinence, and constipation to name a few. 

 

What do vaginal muscle spasms feel like?

Spasms feel different for everyone, and it often depends on the severity and/or how long it’s been happening.  Usually, people report feeling a sharp tightness around their vagina, as if their partner or the object they’re inserting is hitting a wall, or the feeling like their vaginal opening is too small for anything to enter. They also describe some of the sensations as: vibrations, humming, buzzing, throbbing, tingling, and burning. Remember, it’s different for everyone! 

The physical severity of vaginal spasms can be graded via the Lamont-Pacik grading scale. The grading scale is utilized when a medical professional (like a gynecologist or pelvic health therapist) attempts to perform an internal vaginal examination, and notes how a person and their pelvic floor muscles react. 

Vaginismus, a condition where a person experiences a vaginal spasm, is diagnosed via a history taking along with a vaginal exam (if the person is comfortable with it). During the exam, if a pelvic floor spasm is observed, the diagnosis of vaginismus is confirmed.  

People who have less severe forms of  vaginismus are generally able to allow finger insertion after some comforting and reassurance. With moderate severity, medical professionals usually note some form of physical withdrawal (like lifting the buttocks, keeping the legs closed, or trying to move away from the exam bed) along with keeping the pelvic floor muscles contracted.  In the most severe form of vaginismus, the person experiences symptoms such as  trembling, shaking, extreme anxiety, crying, screaming, sweating, palpitations, hyperventilation, nausea, and vomiting.  

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms or have had an experience like the one described during a gynecologist visit, make sure to go through our vaginismus screening consultation at Proactive for Her, so that we can help you overcome this!

 

Underlying causes of vaginal spasms

Vaginal spasms or vaginismus can happen due to a variety of reasons. It can result from emotional, and/or medical factors. Emotional triggers or factors include: fear of pregnancy or pain, anxiety from lack of knowledge on what’s going to happen or anticipation of pain, feeling guilty for participating in intimate activities, relationship conflicts, traumatic life events such as a history of sexual abuse or assault. There’s also research that suggests that people who have a history of depression or anxiety are more likely to experience pain and spasms around the vagina.

Medical conditions can also cause vaginal spasms to occur. This includes having a history of an urinary tract or yeast infection, a history of pelvic or abdominal surgery (this includes childbirth!), thinning of the vaginal tissue due to decreased estrogen (happens during menopause or postpartum), hormonal conditions such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome, or a radiation after cancer treatment. Inadequate arousal or lubrication can also cause pain or spasms in the pelvic floor!

Environmental and social experiences play a crucial role in causing people to experience spasms in their pelvic floor. Lack of knowledge on sexual health or female anatomy, and the only discussion on intercourse consisting of “it’s going to hurt on your first night” can create lots of anxiety and anticipation of pain with penetration. When sexual or intimate experiences are regarded as “bad”, this can often create an underlying guilt in people, which leads to messages being sent to the pelvic floor to stop penetration. Stressful situations or being chronically stressed can lead to various muscles in the body to experience a spasm, including a vaginal spasm! 

 

How you can relax your pelvic floor

It’s important to help the pelvic floor surrounding muscles relax, so the likelihood of experiencing vaginal spasms decreases. onstant spasms in the pelvic floor muscles can contribute to tightness and pain in the neighboring muscles as well. Breathwork plays an important role in relaxing the pelvic floor muscles along with stretches such as a butterfly stretch, happy baby stretch, child’s pose and deep squats to name a few.

We’ll help you get started with a few stretching exercises and review the proper mechanics of breathing, but it’s important to consult a pelvic health physiotherapist to make sure you’re on the right track. Remember, that your mental health plays a significant role on how your pelvic floor reacts to penetration, so it’s also essential that you start consulting a mental health therapist to address any underlying psychological factors.

The following  exercises should  be practiced in a comfortable room, where you can focus on relaxing and connecting with your pelvic floor muscles. First we start with belly breathing.  Start with laying on your back, and focus on taking deep inhales through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. The emphasis should be on filling your belly and letting it expand as you breathe in, and in turn sending the air to the pelvic floor so the muscles can relax and the vagina can open up. Perform the exercise mindfully trying to connect with the pelvic floor muscles. You should be able to feel a gentle push if your hand is placed on the vulva.

Once you feel comfortable with breathing and can feel the connection to the pelvic floor, start adding the stretches we mentioned above. Making sure to stay in the stretch and breath through it. 

Dilators are a common tool used to help people who are experiencing vaginal spasms. They’re used to stretch the vaginal opening and canal, along with the muscles surrounding it. We do not suggest attempting to start using dilators on your own. It’s not only about pushing or inserting it and going about your day. There’s a very safe and evidence based way of training with the dilators, and it’s important to have a medical professional like a pelvic health physiotherapist guide you through it.  



Get support and treatment

Proactive for Her has had huge success in treating vaginismus or chronic vaginal spasms. We offer both a highly successful online program, as well as in-person or online pelvic health physiotherapy and mental health sessions. If you feel you have this condition, feel free to sign up for a vaginismus screening consultation. You can count on a team of expert gynecologists, mental health therapists, pelvic health therapists, and pleasure coaches. At Proactive for Her, we believe in a holistic approach to treating you.