Well and Good | Vaginal Dilators To Treat Pelvic Pain and Painful Sex
- Written by Heather Jeffcoat, DPT
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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.
** This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. **