If you thought physical therapy was just for your bad back or that pinch in your neck, think again…
When it comes to our vaginas, most of us only think about them when we really have to – during our periods, when we’re having sex, or when something doesn’t feel right (hello, recurrent yeast infections). The idea of taking time for regular vaginal maintenance doesn’t usually occur to us, other than getting a yearly Pap smear and a Brazilian before we hit the beach.
But it’s actually vital to pay attention our lady parts and be tuned in to what’s going on down there. Vaginas are important! They give us orgasms (if you’ve never had a vaginal orgasm, you should really get on that), allow us be intimate with our partners, and, of course, birth babies.
So, how do you know your vagina needs a little TLC? Symptoms of something going wrong down there include pain during sex, lower back pain, difficulty urinating, or incontinence. If you’re experiencing any of these, your vagina needs some love – and no, not that kind of love. Physical therapy for your vagina is, in fact, a thing.
Never heard of PT for your va-jay- jay? Here’s what it’s for, and how it works…
Kegels are for everyone
Even if everything is in good working order downstairs, you can benefit from doing kegel exercises. Kegels tone and strengthen your pubococcygeus, or PC muscle, which stretches along the floor of your pelvis and supports all your lady organs. Think of it kind of like a hammock that your uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes chill out in. A strong PC muscle not only keeps your female organs intact (uterine prolapse, a condition in which your uterus can actually fall out of your vagina, is one of the more horrifying results of a weak PC muscle), it can make your orgasms more powerful, and make sex hotter for both you and your partner.
If you’d like to step your kegel-ing up from the old ‘tense up like you’re stopping a stream of urine, hold, and let go’ routine most of us are familiar with, you can purchase a set of kegel balls (also known as Ben-Wa balls) pretty much anywhere online, at a drugstore, or at an adult store. (Hey, why not pick up a fun new sex toy while you’re at it, right?)
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Pelvic floor therapy and you
If you’re struggling with urinary incontinence, organ prolapse, lower back pain, or vulvodynia – a disorder that causes burning and stabbing pain in and around your vagina, and which can stem from chronic infections, trauma, or sexual abuse – you’ll most likely need to do more than just your run-of-the-mill kegels. A visit to your friendly GP, midwife, or OB-GYN is in order, where you’ll be referred to a specialist who can recommend a regimen of pelvic floor exercises that can rehabilitate your yoni.
In addition to kegels, your vaginal physical therapy routine might include breathing techniques and intra-vaginal massage, which you can learn to do at home with a partner. Physical therapist Gopi Jhaveri, co-owner of Brooklyn Health Physical Therapy, warns that it might take a few tries to find a practitioner who can help you, but asserts that women shouldn’t give up.
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“Many doctors assume that women’s health physical therapy can only take you to a certain point,” says Jhaveri, “but we know it can take you all the way to recovery.”
Fun with vaginal dilators
Not to be overly crude or pander to the patriarchy, but – a tight vagina is supposed to be a good thing, right? Not always. There’s actually such a thing as a too-tight vagina. So tight, in fact, that no one can penetrate it. That means you can’t use tampons or have sex without teeth-gritting pain, if you can even get anything in there at all. Talk about a bummer.
Vaginismus is an affliction that involves uncontrollable spasms and tightening of the vaginal muscles. Sufferers are often survivors of sexual abuse, or have been traumatized by a past incidence of painful intercourse. Physical therapist Isa Herrera, clinical director of Renew Physical Therapy in Manhattan, and author of Ending Female Pain: A Woman’s Manual, says many women are reluctant to speak up about painful sex. “I’ve heard excuses like ‘it hurts unless I keep changing positions’ or ‘it hurts because my partner is so big,'” says Herrera. “But the vagina is a wonderful thing and should be able to accommodate just about any man.”
A physical therapist can use a special set a vaginal dilators, ranging from pencil size to full-on dildo size, to gradually stretch your vagina and get you accustomed to relaxing enough to accommodate your partner – or a tampon, or whatever else you care to put inside you. (Just be careful not to get anything stuck up there, you crazy kids.)
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If this sounds scary, relax. Your physical therapist will lube the dilators up real good and go slow, and may even hook you up to electrodes to indicate how you’re responding to the insertion and dilation.
Your amazing vagina
The moral of the story is: if you’re having any trouble down there, don’t be shy. Herrera says one out of every three women experience pelvic pain of some sort, and female health care providers can empower women to acknowledge and alleviate their physical discomfort.
It’s high time we got over any embarrassment about our vaginas and started pampering our lady parts. Heck, these days you can even throw a vagina party, and wear vagina jewelry. So yes, go ahead: get that Brazilian and schedule a Pap smear, but don’t stop there. If there’s anything else awry down south, get it checked out.
Vaginas are amazing – so don’t neglect yours.
Images via tumblr.com, imgur.com, thehealthyarchive.info, giphy.com, sugarscape.com.
Comment: What do you do to take care of your vagina?