Vulvodynia and vaginal pain

Most women have or will experience some pain during sexual intercourse, with 10%-15%  of women the pain is constant and is called Vulvodynia – chronic pain in the external genitals of a woman.

 

Vulvodynia is characterized by chronic pain that appears in the vulvar region, usually only in the vaginal opening (vestibule), and then it is called vestibulodynia (also known as Vulvar Vestibulitis) while in severe cases the pain can also extend to the anus and other areas along the pelvic (generalized Vulvodynia). The pain occurs mainly during sexual intercourse. Sometimes the sensitivity is so high that the pain does not allow the use of tampon and in more extreme cases the pain occurs even without any contact to the affected area.

The pain is often described as a burning sensation as if rubbing an open wound or stabbing of the area.

About one in seven women suffer from Vulvodynia and yet, hardly a week goes without hearing phrases like "the gynaecologist thinks I'm crazy", "I went to see so many doctors and none of them knows what I have", "I feel flawed", and many other phrases describing terrible distress, as if the pain itself was not enough.

According to western medicine, the cause of Vulvodynia is unknown. There are many possibilities for treatments as sexology therapy, pelvic floor physiotherapy, biofeedback, anti-inflammatory ointments, anaesthetics and more, however, they are not always effective. Following a few successful pilot research acupuncture was marked as promising and large research is now conducted in the USA.   

Vulvodynia is considered primary when the pain is felt with the first sexual experience. It is secondary when a woman experienced sexual intercourse without pain and at some point in her life, she begins to feel the pain, sometimes following a vaginal inflammation caused by a fungus, virus, parasite or bacteria that was not treated properly or at all.

Any woman can develop Vulvodynia at some point in her life.

Almost always the pain causes guilt and a decrease in self-esteem, due to a feeling of being damaged. It may affect a woman's ability to be intimate with her partner or even from having children. This can disrupt existing relations or causes concerns for starting a new one.

The syndrome disrupts the life of the woman suffering from it on every level – physical, mental and personal.

During our first conversation in 2007, Dr Liora Abramov, head of sex therapy clinic in Lis maternity hospital, Tel Aviv, Israel, commented to me that she was concerned with finding a way to help women suffering from Vulvodynia. From then I began to explore the subject in-depth, which in the Chinese medical literature is not emphasized. I have since treated hundreds of women. Most cases showed significant improvement and many cases were completely cured.

The Chinese medicine therapy I use includes acupuncture in points that are far from the genitals (hands, feet, abdomen, and head), and in many cases supplemented with oral herbal formula and some nutritional changes.

There is no difficulty in combining Chinese medicine treatment with the conventional one.

Vulvodynia according to the Chinese medicine view:

Vulvodynia is mainly a problem of the free flow of Qi, blood and\or fluids of the Liver organ. But there is no need to find a donor for liver transplant ;-) unlike conventional medicine that divides the body into separate parts, Chinese medicine treats the body as a whole system and the emphasis is on function rather than a physical part. An organ in the body has a function that affects the physical and mental aspects. There are 12 internal organs that are considered the core of the Chinese medicine theory and the relationship between these organs is what affect all functions in the body.

Our body can be compared to a branched piping system where blood, various fluids, and Qi flows through its channels. Qi is responsible for every movement – it is the basis of everything and without it, there would be no life, it cannot be seen but is very tangible (it is felt when a needle is inserted into an acupuncture point). The Qi flows through the body from any direction and in any direction, and on its way varies and changes. Mental and physical factors like stress, illness, nutrition, accident etc. may disrupt the circulation in the body. in accordance with the tendency of each person, the disruption would influence on the body, in this case, the tendency is the genitals. 

Part of the route of the liver's channel goes through the genitals, and a problem of the liver's function may cause many disorders along its route, one of them is vulvar pain.

The cause of the pain:

Pain is always associated with disrupted free flow, as in the Chinese saying "when there is pain there is no free flow, if there is no free flow there is pain"

What can be done?

By asking questions, tongue observation and pulse measuring it is possible to find the cause for the stagnation in the free flow: if the problem is qi and blood stagnation than they should be moved if the stagnation is of fluids (vaginal discharges for example) then they should be drained or dried. If there is too much heat – it should be cooled, too much cold should be warmed and if the cause is a deficiency of qi and blood, they should be restored.

Once the cause for that stagnation begins to fade, the pain decreases and one can begin to breathe :-)

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