Vulvodynia is a condition peculiar to women, characterized by chronic pain and/or burning of the tissue located near and around the opening to the vagina. The vulva includes the labia, clitoris and the openings of your vagina and urethra. In most cases, the tissue is highly sensitive to touch, and may make everyday activities such as sports, exercise or intercourse unpleasant. Although a single cause for this condition has not been identified, the Vulvodynia Association lists several possibilities, including weak pelvic floor muscles, leading to excessive excitation of the sensitive nerves which surround the vulva. Luckily, those muscles can be strengthened through daily exercise.
Kegel exercises were named for their creator, Dr. Arnold Kegel, an OB/GYN who developed the regimen to treat post-partum incontinence. To perform a Kegal, focus on the muscles which control urine flow and bowel function. Sitting erect on a kitchen or desk chair, exhale as you tighten the muscles surrounding the urethra and anus. Hold for 2-3 seconds, then relax the muscles. Repeat several times, gradually increasing the length of time you hold the contraction. You can perform these exercises throughout the day as you work at your desk, drive, or do any other seated activity.
Pelvic Tilt with Kegel
Lie supine on the floor, palms beside your hips, knees bent about 45 degrees, feet and knees pressed together. Exhale and roll the pelvis toward the ribs, drawing the navel toward the spine. Maintaining the tilt, lift the hips toward the ceiling, simultaneously performing the Kegel maneuver described above. Hold at the top for a count of 5, then inhale as you slowly lower the hips to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times.
Hip Lift/Knee Squeeze
Lying supine on the floor, place your palms next to your hips. bend your knees to about 45 degrees and place your feet hip-width apart. Performing to a 4-count, lift the hips toward the ceiling on "one," press the knees together and Kegel on "two," open the knees on "three," and lower the hips to the floor on "four." Repeat 15-25 times. As a variation, maintain the lifted-hip position and perform the knee-squeeze/Kegel repeatedly in a butterfly motion.
Lie on your side with your hips stacked one directly above the other, hips slightly bent, knees straight. Rest your head on your bottom arm, and place the hand of the top arm on the floor in front of the ribs. Lift the top leg so that it is parallel to the floor, with the hip rotated slightly toward the ceiling. Tightening the Kegel muscles, lift the lower leg and touch the heels together. Hold for 2-3 seconds, then return the lower leg slowly to the floor. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.
Exercises alone may not relieve the symptoms of vulvodynia; so if your pain and discomfort persist, consult a doctor for other treatments as well.