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woman in bed needing vaginal dilators
Photo: Getty Images/Sarayuth Punnasuriyaporn-EyeEm
Gabrielle Kassel of the website Well + Good reached out to me for my expertise on the proper use of vaginal dilators for overcoming vaginal tightness, pain during sex or tampon insertion, etc., and I was glad to add my two cents on this vastly important topic for many women. Here is a brief synopsis of the article along with a link to the full article below.

Heather Jeffcoat, DPT

Unless you have a medical kink or are role-playing nurse and patient, the doctor’s office and bedroom probably function as separate, non-interacting entities. But for some people who experience pelvic or sexual pain, vaginal dilators blend the experience of the two.

Below, two pelvic-floor therapists explain the purpose of these medical tools, as well as how to determine if they may be useful for your personal pelvic-floor issues or sexual pain.

What are vaginal dilators and how do you use them?

Aesthetically, vaginal dilators are akin to dildos, but their intended use is as medical devices to gradually stretch, relax, massage, or mobilize the pelvic-floor muscles.

Designed to enter and stay in the vagina for a prescribed duration of time (usually five to 20 minutes)—or manipulated to massage the internal vaginal walls—vaginal dilators are sold in kits of three to seven total dilators of increasing size, says Heather Jeffcoat, DPT, a doctor of physical therapy who specializes in sexual dysfunction and incontinence, and is the author of "Sex Without Pain".

The intention is for you to start with whatever size you can insert comfortably. Then, after a few days, weeks, or months, when your vaginal canal has learned to relax around and accommodate its size without pain, you size up. This progression continues until you reach your end-goal girth and length. Some folks have the goal of being able to comfortably have penetrative intercourse with their partner’s penis, and thus will work up to a dilator of a similar size. Others wish to use a regular-size tampon comfortably, and thus will work up to a dilator of similar size to that.

When using dilators, patience is key.

You have to respect the time your body is asking for to work up in size and through the kit,” says Dr. Jeffcoat.

Who are vaginal dilators for, exactly?

The short answer: Vaginal dilators are for anyone who has been to a pelvic-floor therapist who has recommended the use of the tool, says Dr. Ossai. And according to Dr. Jeffcoat, this may include anyone who experiences pelvic or penetrative pain, including folks with endometriosis, vulvodynia or vestibulodynia (pain around vaginal opening), vaginismus (constricted vaginal muscles), hypertonic pelvic floor (non-relaxing pelvic-floor muscles), painful bladder syndrome, and genitourinary syndrome of menopause (genital atrophy).

Vaginal dilators may also be used by people who have had pelvic-floor surgery, radiation for abdominal or pelvic cancer, or vaginoplasty to promote pelvic-floor health,” she says.

Click here for the full article containing more info on the use of vaginal dilators.

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Testimonial by M.N., age 28

A personal journey and testimonial from one of my patients:

I was diagnosed with vaginismus 4 years ago. I never heard of such medical condition until after I got married. At first my husband and I didn't know what to do, we didn't know what the issues were or how to overcome it. Being born and raised in Armenia and being Christian I wasn't that open about talking to sex with others and so it wasn't easy to seek help. But eventually I went to an Ob-Gyn and luckily she knew about the medical condition (not many doctors know). She referred me to a physical therapist and I couldn't believe it and thought it's something I can handle myself. I ordered a kit from vaginismus.com and started practicing with dilators. There was some small progress but wasn't much helpful.

Read more: Testimonial by M.N., age 28

Testimonial by J.H.

My last appointment with Heather was over 6 years ago but I still think of her every day. I don’t take for granted that I can easily get out of bed, care for my two active and busy young boys, run, play tennis, clean my house, or sit at a desk for several hours at a time. None of these tasks were easy for me before meeting Heather. Eight years ago my car was struck from behind by a tractor trailer that was estimated to have been speeding. I spent 3 years working with different PTs and Drs trying to heal and move on with my life. When I became pregnant and the hormone relaxin that “relaxes” all the joints of the body and the additional weight gain erased all my progress and I was suddenly in a lot of pain again. My OB sent me to Heather for one last try.

Read more: Testimonial by J.H.

Testimonial by Carolina J.

I had tried Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy before (with another PT) and I had a really bad (painful) experience. A friend of mine and fellow patient, told me about Heather, Laureen and Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) and I decided to try again. I am so happy I did! Femina PT have, literally, changed my life. I was able to do again things I couldn't do for over 10 years!! Their bedside manners are impeccable, their knowledge and understanding make me feel comfortable to recommend this place to anyone in pain. Specially if you have Endometriosis. 100% recommended!!

-- Carolina J., 12/28/16 via Yelp!

Testimonial by Lauren B.

Femina PT (née Fusion Wellness & Physical Therapy) has been such an answer to prayer, i'm so glad I found them! I've been struggling with vaginismus my whole life, but didn't have a name for it until about 6 or 7 months ago. Even once I did have a name for it though, I didn't know where to begin in getting help. My OB/GYN had me get a set of dilators, but I couldn't even insert the smallest one by myself. Most times I tried I just ended up frustrated and in tears. I felt really alone, like I was broken and didn't have the energy to keep trying. When I got engaged a few months ago though, I realized I needed to get answers so i wasn't dreading my honeymoon.

Read more: Testimonial by Lauren B.

Testimonial by Alexandra B.

Heather is without exaggerating AMAZING! After years of trouble with a certain part of my body, in no time, she made everything change back to equilibrium and to what would be considered normal. She explains everything in detail and therefore gives you a better understanding of why things are the way they are, and how you can work towards turning things around. I would highly recommend Heather for any type of Physical Therapy. She has created her own "Method/Therapy" through years of studying (with some of the greatest practitioners), practice and breaking down the issues of her past patients, enabling her to fine tune her own system. I'm so thankful to have found her, and I'm especially grateful for the quick recovery I've achieved, after years of distress. If you cannot afford her, I recommend you purchase her book. Although it may not be Heather in person, it can still help you to get on the right path to recovery!

-- Alexandra B., 5/20/2015 via Yelp!

Testimonial by R.S.

I wanted to thank you so much for helping me get through something I thought I may never be able to. We have achieved pain-free intercourse and this has really solidified our marriage. We are so grateful to you for all the work you do! Thank you!!

-- R.S.

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