Giddy | The Vasovagal Response and Other Reasons Why Inserting a Tampon is Painful
- Written by Heather Jeffcoat, DPT
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Heather Jeffcoat, DPT
Find Out Why Inserting a Tampon is Painful
Feeling dizzy and nauseous after putting in a hygiene product? Doctors have some theories.
As mentioned throughout our website, there are a multitude of potential causes of painful penetration, some with overlapping symptoms. A proper diagnosis will always include a deep dive into the background issues that led to the condition, including both physical and emotional causes. And when these issues coincide they can lead to what is called a "vasovagal response":
A vasovagal response is when a bodily trigger causes you to faint.
For people with a sensitive cervix, this reaction is caused by the tampon touching the cervix," said Somi Javaid, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN in Ohio and one of three founders of HerMD, a female-founded healthcare startup.
Symptoms of this type of episode include paleness, nausea, sweating and, yes, fainting. Treatment for a vasovagal episode can include trigger avoidance or medication.
If any of the above rings true, you may have what is known as a "friable cervix". Causes may include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- Vaginal atrophy
- Hormonal imbalance
Firast things first of course, consult with your physician or gynecologist if you suspect any of the above to be the case.
Your sympathetic nervous system was engaged
When faced with imminent physical danger, the human body’s sympathetic nervous system triggers our "fight-or-flight" response. The sympathetic nervous system is a normally harmonized network of brain structures, nerves and hormones that, if thrown off balance, can result in serious complications. Click here for a full explanation of the sympathetic nervous system at LiveScience.com.
If your body perceives inserting a tampon as a threat, it will engage our sympathetic nervous system, which may produce the physical effects. Putting something inside you—especially in your vagina, where you may have experienced trauma, pain or shame around penetration—could feel foreign or nerve-wracking.
People who experience chronic pelvic pain or high levels of depression and/or anxiety are more likely to have sensitive nervous systems, too. In other words, inserting a tampon may be perceived as painful, even though it is a non-painful stimuli.
You have toxic shock syndrome
Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a less likely cause, but it's best to ascertain if you have it.
Although more rare these days than when it first hit the news in the 1980s, toxic shock syndrome is still one possible reason why inserting a tampon is painful. It has been linked to everything from glyphosate in the (non-organic) cotton used to make tampons, to exposure to dioxins and other manmade chemicals including fragrances.
It's also important to rule out toxic shock syndrome with your physician, as that can also make you feel hot due to a fever but has other potentially life-threatening symptoms of diarrhea, widespread sunburn-like rash, dizziness or fainting, headaches and bloodshot eyes.
How to keep tampon insertion from disrupting your life
Once TSS has been ruled out, to get at the root of what can help you avoid the effects of the nervous system, a team of providers may be necessary. If you experience pain, a pelvic floor therapist, pain management physician and/or acupuncturist may need to be on your team to reduce or get you out of your pain cycle. If you don't feel pain, a psychotherapist or pelvic floor physical therapist can help with anxiety and nervous system regulation.
Change the tampon you use and how you insert it
Trying different brands and/or sizes may give better results, and you might also try switching up how you insert the tampon.
We recommend inserting the tampon in a different position; for instance, laying down or sitting on the toilet and bearing down to try to make the dizziness go away. Having a fan blowing nearby may help, too.
Try 'rainbow breathing'
One essential function that can help reduce your feelings of anxiety or other unregulated nervous system effects is deep, lateral breathing, sometimes called 'rainbow breathing' in the pediatric population.
To use this breathing technique:
- Get into a comfortable position.
- Inhale as deeply as is comfortable for you. Feel your rib cage expand forward, to the sides and back.
- As you inhale, reach your arms overhead, then bring them down to your sides as though you're making a rainbow with your arms.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on the causes of painful penetration and why inserting tampon is painful. Click here to read the original article at Giddy.com, and use this simple contact form if you'd like to make an appointment at one of our offices.
** This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. **