| Tara Langdale
7 Common Reasons for a Tight Vagina and How to Loosen Up Down There
How to Loosen Up Down There?
Having a tight vagina is a difficult and commonly overlooked issue when it comes to women’s health.
Several concerns may surface from vaginal tightness that can lead to a variety of issues ranging from difficulty in inserting a tampon to avoiding gynecological examinations, and/or even having a painful and discouraging sex life.
It can be challenging to discuss, especially when no two vaginas are alike. However, it is important to know that you are not alone and there are viable solutions which can help relax vaginal tightness.
There are a multitude of reasons that contribute to vaginal tightness, but it is imperative to understand why your vagina is tight, and additionally find effective methods to treat it. Medical professionals generally recommend vaginal dilators as one of the main forms of treatment therapy.
This article provides informative content on common causes for vaginal tightness and the treatment methods for increasing the flexibility of the vagina by using an effective vaginal dilator.
What are the reasons for a tight, painful vagina?
Women who undergo pelvic radiation for the treatment of cancers may have adverse health outcomes that cause complications in their vagina (American Cancer Society, 2020). Generally, a side effect of pelvic radiation is vaginal stenosis, which is defined as abnormal tightening and shortening of the vagina due to the formation of scar tissue (Morris et al., 2017).
As the vaginal tissues heal from the pelvic radiation, scar tissue develops throughout the vaginal wall and pelvic floor. Not only does this cause the walls of the vagina to develop rigidity and stiffness, but it also causes shortening or narrowing of the vagina (American Cancer Society, 2020).
This all contributes to a loss of elasticity and increasing tightness of the vagina, preventing women from performing normal tasks such as inserting a tampon, undergoing pelvic examinations, penetration of objects (ex: sex toys), and sexual intercourse. Dr. Reed from the MD Anderson Cancer Center indicated that most doctors recommend using a vaginal dilator after your pelvic radiation treatment to reduce the risk of vaginal tightness occurring (MD Anderson Cancer Center, 2017).
Infections: Possible tightening related to Vaginal Infections
Vaginitis refers to infections of the vagina, resulting from abnormal growth of bacteria and yeast in the vagina (WebMD, 2002). Gynecologist Dr. Goje stated that vaginitis causes millions of visits to the doctors office every year in the United States (Goje, 2021).
The most common form of vaginitis in women is a yeast infection, which are fungal infections that usually result from the organism Candida Albicans (MedicineNet, 2021). This problem may cause intense itching in the genital area, irritation, burning, soreness, vaginal swelling, thick vaginal discharge , and more (MedicineNet, 2021).
The inflammation that can result from an infection in the vagina can contribute to it becoming increasingly tight (Goje, 2021). It is important to get tested and properly diagnosed by a healthcare professional so your vaginitis can be treated as soon as possible.
Dyspareunia is a possibility
Dyspareunia is a term describing painful intercourse, where constant genital pain occurs before, during, or after sexual intercourse (Mayo Clinic, 2021). This condition develops in many women and may result from various issues ranging from psychological to physiological concerns.
A woman with dyspareunia may have pain involving penetration, difficulty in using a tampon, burning or aching pain, throbbing pain that lasts for hours even after sex, and many more issues (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
According to Mayo Clinic, these symptoms can occur from any of the following:
- Injuries and or traumas
- Inflammation and infections
- Certain illnesses and conditions including vulvodynia, vaginismus, vulvar vestibulitis, etc.
- Surgeries or specific medical treatments such as pelvic radiation treatment for cancers
- Emotional factors (trauma, psychological issues, stress)
If you are dealing with persistent pain from sexual intercourse, then it is essential to see your physician to properly diagnose the issue and treat it.
Childbirth unfortunately can take a large toll on a woman’s body.
Every pregnancy varies and there are physical and psychological factors that impact your body (UT Southwestern Medical Center, 2016). Not only does a woman experience intense inflammation levels in her vagina and pelvic region after childbirth, but it is common to also develop scar tissue throughout the vaginal walls and pelvic floor.
This scar tissue can result in response to C-Sections, or episiotomies, where the vagina is cut during childbirth to make the delivery of the baby easier (NHS, 2020). Tears resulting from delivery can also contribute to the development of scar tissue, which makes the vagina feel tight.
There are many postpartum issues that can occur such as decreased pelvic floor strength, painful sex, vaginal tightness, vaginitis, inflammation, soreness, burning, vaginal dryness, and more (NHS, 2020). It is important to address any post pregnancy issues that your body is experiencing with your OB GYN and a pelvic floor physical therapist.
When the vaginal muscles spasm or constrict involuntarily from penetration (tampon, penis, sex toys, etc.), it is called vaginismus, which may induce fear and avoidance of sexual intercourse in women (WebMD, 2012).
Women with vaginismus have described their penetrative sexual experiences as feeling like the penis is “hitting a wall” (WebMD, 2012). A woman with this condition can have discomfort and trouble when using a tampon, or difficulty undergoing a pelvic examination.
These symptoms cannot be controlled without proper treatment. Vaginismus's exact cause is unknown, but it is often associated with psychological factors such as fear of sex and or anxiety (WebMD, 2012).
Pelvic floor muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles can become painfully stiff and make the area around the vagina tight.
These are the muscles that we use to control our bladder and bowel movements. When these muscles are overworked, they start to hold too much tension (Peninsula Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy, 2020).
The brain may perceive any external stimulus as a “threat,” which can cause tightening of the pelvic floor muscles that wrap around the vagina and therefore forcefully close it (Shahzadeh, 2020). Aches in the pelvis can turn into agonizing cramps and spasms. This can create the inability to have penetrative sex, pelvic examinations, and even difficulty inserting a tampon (Shahzadeh, 2020).
Tight pelvic floor muscles can cause debilitating and sharp pains that shoot throughout the vagina or bowel, lasting for hours or days. Doctors recommend treatment which generally includes vaginal dilators.
Women in their 40s and 50s generally experience menopause, marking the end of their menstrual cycle and reproductive years (MayoClinic, 2020). During this state, women may experience hot flashes, vaginal atrophy, weight gain, slowed metabolism, thinning of the hair, irregular periods, vaginal dryness, and additional changes (MayoClinic, 2020). With decreased levels of estrogen, this causes vaginal tissues to thin, decreased vaginal lubrication, and loss of vagina stretch, which is called vaginal atrophy (Cleveland Clinic, 2020). There may also be a shortening and narrowing of the vaginal canal (Cleveland Clinic, 2020).
Vaginal atrophy is a prevalent reason for painful sex in a woman’s midlife (North American Menopause Society, 2021). Menopause causes tight vaginal muscles that cause inflammation, irritation, tearing, and bleeding of the vaginal tissue when having penetrative sex, or when any penetration occurs (North American Menopause Society, 2021). Decreased sexual health may result. Communicate the changes in your body to your doctor, so these symptoms can be monitored. Your OB GYN may advise treatments including a vaginal dilator, lubricants, pelvic floor exercises, and hormonal therapy (Cleveland Clinic, 2020).
Using Vaginal Dilators to "Loosen" Things Up
Medical professionals almost always recommend vaginal dilators as a method of effective treatment for all of the conditions listed above that contribute to vaginal tightness. It is important to communicate with your doctor to identify and diagnose the changes occurring in your vagina.
What are vaginal dilators?
Vaginal dilators are tube shaped devices that are used to increase vagina stretch and elasticity (MSK Cancer Center, 2021). They come in different sizes varying in length, circumference, and diameter. The VuVa Magnetic Neodymium Magnetic Vaginal dilators were designed to alleviate pelvic and vulva pain in a patient who suffered from sexual dysfunction due to painful penetrative sex. The sizes range from 2.25-6.5 inches in length to 0.5-1.5 inches in width. The tubes are similar to the shape of a tampon and make insertion easier with their tapered ends. It is more effective to use dilators that are firm plastic for maximum stretch if your muscles are very tight, rather than silicone dilators which have a softer composition (MSK Cancer Center, 2020).
How do vaginal dilators help?
Vaginal dilators help train the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles to relax. The pelvic floor muscles lengthen around the dilators and strengthen the muscles, making them more flexible and controllable (MSK Cancer Center, 2020). The overall hypersensitivity that occurs in the vulva and vagina is reduced through the use of vaginal dilators. By gradually increasing the size of the dilators, it allows you to practice relaxing and controlling your vagina and pelvic floor muscles. Since the human body generates its own magnetic field, magnets can be used to restore and relax your pelvic floor. When using Vuva dilators, the addition of Neodymium magnets in the dilators increases the blood flow to the vagina for the purpose of counteracting disease and acidity.
How to use vaginal dilators?
Using vaginal dilators is not as complicated as it may seem. Once you have consulted a medical professional and established the dilator size you should begin with, it should be noted that the usage per day and week varies. According to the Oxford University Hospitals, it is best to begin using the dilators for 1 minute at a time (building up to 5-10 minutes) and practicing this 5-6 days a week. The goal is to progress gradually and with patience, because rushing your body can trigger muscle spasms, vaginal tightness, and inflict pain (Oxford University Hospitals, 2017) .
- Ensure that you allocate time in your daily routine to relax and engage with this process. It is normal to feel discomfort when beginning to use the vaginal dilators, however, it should not be painful.
- Choose a private location where you will not be interrupted.
- Pick the dilator with the smallest size, or the size that has been recommended to you by a medical professional.
- Ensure the dilator is washed with soap and water. Air dry completely.
- For natural lubrication, use a water-based lubricant to coat the dilator before using it.
- Lean back (on a bed, chair, sofa), bend your knees and spread your legs wide open. Sometimes using a mirror may help in viewing your vaginal entrance.
- Begin by putting the tip of the dilator at the entrance of the vagina and using your breathing to actively keep the pelvic floor muscles relaxed.
- Slowly and gently insert the dilator. Leave the dilator in for the recommended time, and once you are comfortable, gently move the dilator in and out.
- Clean the dilator before and after each usage with hot water and soap. Dry thoroughly.
As you grow more comfortable through practice, you can increase the dilator size and the duration of use. Ensure that you consult with a medical professional to regulate and monitor your state.
What to expect after dilation therapy?
Dilation therapy is an effective way to increase the elasticity of your vagina and ultimately change your life. It helps in strengthening and stabilizing the pelvic floor and vaginal muscles. Not only does this help in alleviating painful sexual intercourse, but it makes penetration easier. You no longer have to avoid using tampons or dismiss pelvic examinations. Studies have shown that women improved in sexual function after using vaginal dilators and that the dilators were effective in preventing vaginal tightness (Araya-Castro et al., 2020) (Aslan et al., 2020). Dilation therapy can help people reclaim their confidence and allow women to participate in normal activities with reduced pain symptoms.
Do you need to order vaginal dilators so you can start your pelvic floor therapy process? Made in the USA. Visit www.vuvatech.com
VuVa Helpful Links:
American Cancer Society. (2020, February 6). How Radiation Therapy Can Affect the Sex Life of Females with Cancer. American Cancer Society. https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/fertility-and-sexual-side-effects/sexuality-for-women-with-cancer/pelvic-radiation.html
Araya-Castro, P., Sacomori, C., Diaz-Guerrero, P., Gayán, P., Román, D., & Sperandio, F. F. (2020). Vaginal Dilator and Pelvic Floor Exercises for Vaginal Stenosis, Sexual Health and Quality of Life among Cervical Cancer Patients Treated with Radiation: Clinical Report. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 46(6), 513–527. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623x.2020.1760981
Aslan, M., Yavuzkır, E., & Baykara, S. (2020). Is “Dilator Use” More Effective Than “Finger Use” in Exposure Therapy in Vaginismus Treatment? Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 46(4), 354–360. https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623x.2020.1716907
Cassoobhoy, A. (2002, February 6). Vaginitis (Vaginal Infections). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/sexual-health-vaginal-infections
Cleveland Clinic. (2020, October 27). Vaginal Atrophy (Atrophic Vaginitis): Symptoms & Treatment. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15500-vaginal-atrophy
Mayo Clinic. (2020a, February 7). Painful intercourse (dyspareunia) - Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/painful-intercourse/symptoms-causes/syc-20375967
Mayo Clinic. (2020b, October 14). Menopause - Symptoms and causes. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menopause/symptoms-causes/syc-20353397
Morris, L., Do, V., Chard, J., & Brand, A. (2017). Radiation-induced vaginal stenosis: current perspectives. International Journal of Women’s Health, Volume 9, 273–279. https://doi.org/10.2147/ijwh.s106796
MSK Cancer Center. (2021, February 23). How to Use a Vaginal Dilator. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. https://www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/how-use-vaginal-dilator
NHS website. (2020, December 2). Episiotomy and perineal tears. NHS.UK. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/labour-and-birth/what-happens/episiotomy-and-perineal-tears/
North American Menopause Society. (2020). Vaginal Discomfort, Sexual Side Effects of Menopause. The North American Menopause Society. https://www.menopause.org/for-women/sexual-health-menopause-online/causes-of-sexual-problems/vaginal-discomfort
Oluwatosin, G. (2021, April). Overview of Vaginitis. MSD Manual Professional Edition. https://www.msdmanuals.com/professional/gynecology-and-obstetrics/vaginitis,-cervicitis,-and-pelvic-inflammatory-disease-pid/overview-of-vaginitis?query=Overview%20of%20Vaginal%20Infections
Oxford University Hospitals. (2020, November). Vaginal Dilator Exercises for Psychosexual Therapy: Information for patients. Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. https://www.ouh.nhs.uk/patient-guide/leaflets/files/30804Pexercises.pdf
Peninsula Pelvic Floor Physiotherapy. (2020, July 22). PELVIC PAIN, PAINFUL SEX? TIGHT PELVIC FLOOR MUSCLES EXPLAINED. https://ppfp.com.au/pelvic-pain-painful-sex-tight-pelvic-floor-muscles-explained/
Reed, V. (2017, May 30). 6 side effects of radiation therapy to the pelvis in women. MD Anderson Cancer Center. https://www.mdanderson.org/cancerwise/6-side-effects-of-radiation-therapy-to-the-pelvis-in-women.h00-159145245.html
Shahzadeh, A. (2020, February 26). Painful Sex – Women. Pelvic Pain Foundation of Australia. https://www.pelvicpain.org.au/painful-sex-women/?v=ef10366317f4
Stöppler, M. C. (2021, February 17). Vaginal Yeast Infection in Women. MedicineNet. https://www.medicinenet.com/yeast_infection_in_women_and_men/article.htm
UTSouthwestern Medical Center. (2016, August 30). Body after birth: Treating post-pregnancy problems | Your Pregnancy Matters | UT Southwestern Medical Center. https://utswmed.org/medblog/postpartum-body-recovery/
WebMD. (2012, May 30). Vaginismus. https://www.webmd.com/women/guide/vaginismus-causes-symptoms-treatments#2-6