Painful Intercourse May Be Due To Vulvodynia

Sexual intercourse is painful for some women, and one cause of the discomfort is due to a condition called Vulvodynia (vul-vo-DIN-ee-uh). You aren’t alone if you haven’t heard of it; many M.D.s and other healthcare providers have not heard of this condition, either.

Also those who experience it often don’t know that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be a very helpful treatment!

Vulvodynia is defined as chronic pain of the external female genitalia. The amount of pain or discomfort varies from woman to woman. Some women not only experience painful intercourse but also have itchiness, discomfort and pain throughout the day.

Here are some of the questions that I have been asked:

Q. Why haven’t I heard of this condition?

A. It isn’t rare, but genital matters can be embarrassing to discuss so, unless you or a loved one have Vulvodynia, you probably aren’t going to know much about it.

Q. What are the symptoms?

A. Common symptoms include: painful burning, itching or throbbing at the entrance to the vagina, labia or other areas of the vulva. Intercourse may be painful; daily activities maybe interrupted; and there is a negative toll on emotional and physical well-being. 

Symptoms may be constant, come and go, or happen only when pressure is applied to the vulva. Generally, there are no visible symptoms which makes the diagnosis even more difficult.

Q. How do women get Vulvodynia?

A. The cause remains a mystery but possibilities include: nerve irritation; muscle spasms; hormonal changes; genetic factors; a hypersensitivity to yeast; sexual abuse; allergies; or irritation caused by certain products.

Some women can pinpoint the beginning, maybe an infection, but there is no known cause for many women. Remember; it is a real problem; you are not crazy or frigid.

Q. Is it a sexually transmitted disease?


Q. What are the treatments options?

A. Currently, common treatments include:

  • Topical medications like lidocaine and estrogen cream.
  • Anti-depressants
  • Physical therapy,
  • Biofeedback,
  • Surgery (very controversial) 
  • Botox injections in the vagina
  • More women are turning to Chinese medicine because it can be very successful. I have seen great results in my Chicago practice using acupuncture and herbs (both topical and in pill form).


Q. If I wanted to try acupuncture, would you needle my vagina?

A. NO.

Most women suffering with Vulvodynia use a combination of remedies to provide relief.

Here are several suggestions you can try on your own. Some work for one woman and not another, but they are all safe and easy:

  • Eliminate environmental irritants like deodorant products, scented soaps, bubble baths, chlorinated water and synthetic fabrics (stick with cotton underwear). 
  • Eliminate spicy foods, caffeine and sugar. 
  • Stay away from tampons, you could try the Diva cup instead.
  • Soak in a lukewarm or cool bath, you might try some epsom salt in it.
  • Wear loose fitting clothing.
  • Stay out of hot tubs. 
  • When having sex use a lubricant that is free of all potientally irritating chemicals. One to try is Sliquid Organics Natural Lubricating Gel.

Successful treatment is difficult to come by but luckily Chinese Medicine is an effective option. In my Chicago acupuncture office, I have treated this problem with great success, and I find that needling points on the limbs and near the nose work quite well.

Normally, it takes several sessions to get lasting results, i.e., no pain during intercourse or at any other time.

With regular acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and self-care, many women find that their painful symptoms are greatly reduced or eliminated and they are able resume an active sex life.

Comments 5

    1. Post
  1. Thank you for the wonderful info. Just got my first vulvodynia client in my acupuncture clinic and your articles have pointed me in the right direction. I was hoping for some further advice on herbal remedies? I do more nutrition in my office. Thanks!

    1. Post
  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I have enjoyed reading your articles on Vulvodynia and Acupuncture. I have an excellent PT who also does Acupuncture.
    Is it possible for you to give me more info to give to him that would be beneficial for needling to treat Vulvodynia.
    Thank you very much for any assistance you are able to give me and my PT. I have had VV for 6 years after coping with Interstitial Cystitis for many years and having my bladder removed. Then unfortunately VV reared its ugly head and it is even more miserable and painful than IC!!!!

    Sincere thanks,
    Sharon Montgomery
    Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *