Does Acupuncture Work for Vulvodynia?
In one study, almost 30% of women reported that they had vulvar pain at some point in their life. The researchers concluded from this study that as many as 14 million women in the US have chronic vulvar pain during their lifetime. The same authors estimated that 30% of those women with chronic vulvar pain don’t seek treatment. We want you to know that effective treatment is available. It may take multiple types of treatment and trying a variety of things, but you don’t have to live in chronic pain.
What is Vulvodynia?
Unfortunately, vulvodynia is a diagnosis that means something like: All the explainable causes have been ruled out, but you still have pain. That means vulvodynia is vulvar or vaginal pain that isn’t attributable to infection, nerve disorders, hormone issues, or skin disorders.
Vulvodynia is pain in the vulvar region, which can be constant or intermittent. The pain can be provoked by pressure or contact with clothing, or triggered by contact, such as intercourse or inserting a tampon. Sensations can range from itching to soreness to burning pain. The pain is rated anywhere from mild to debilitating.
Typical treatments may include topical medications, pelvic floor physical therapy, anti-depressants, and other medications, therapy, surgery, and, now acupuncture is recommended by many physicians and the Vulval Pain Society to help alleviate vulvar pain. Please note that anti-depressants are used because they interrupt the pain pathway, not because your ‘vagina is depressed,’ as Charlotte said on Sex and the City.
How can acupuncture help?
There are a few ways acupuncture can alleviate pain. For one, acupuncture induces a state of relaxation, which is a necessary component for any kind of healing. Acupuncture is also thought to release endorphins in the body, which is known to help alleviate pain, at least temporarily. It’s possible that these endorphins interrupt the pain signaling pathway long enough that the neuromuscular system re-trains itself not to be in constant pain.
From a Chinese medicine point of view, pain anywhere in the body is caused by some ‘substance’ not moving the way it should. In Chinese medicine, we talk about Qi and Blood, Yin and Yang, Dampness, Cold, and Heat as though they are substances that should flow through the body. When they don’t flow, they cause blockages and pain is the result. One way to reinstitute the correct flow of substances is to have regular acupuncture treatments.
Often, it isn’t necessary to insert needles in the pelvic region to treat pelvic pain. We use acupuncture points all over the body to treat the underlying causes of pain. Most people tell us that acupuncture treatments are very relaxing and that they leave the treatment in less pain than when they arrived. This can build toward less pain and suffering over time.
Learn More and Schedule a Session
We at Portland Acupuncture Studio want you to feel better and live your best life. We are happy to work in connection with a pelvic floor physical therapist, your gynecologist, a physiatrist, a mental health therapist, and whoever else is on your care team. We are also happy to provide recommendations for other providers if you would like. We know that this type of pain is very sensitive. Contact us today to learn more about empowering and effective ways to reduce your pain.