For millions of people across the gender identity spectrum, pelvic pain keeps them from enjoying the active sex life they crave. Pelvic pain has many associated disorders, from irritable bowel syndrome to endometriosis in people with a uterus or skeletal-muscular issues from childbirth, injury, and yes, even just regular old aging. The problem with chronic pelvic pain is that an estimated 50 percent of sufferers don’t seek help because of embarrassment about the issue.
Pelvic pain in people with penises can result in erectile dysfunction, inability to orgasm, or pain with orgasm. If pelvic pain isn’t treated, it can result in loss of libido, negatively impacting mental health and relationships.
Vagina-having people can experience intense discomfort with orgasm or even arousal. Some people experience a feeling of pressure in their lower abdomen. As is the case for non-vagina-having people, this can result in a loss of libido.
Whatever your anatomy, pelvic pain can lead to discomfort with urination, bowel movements or even just sitting. Often, the cause of pelvic pain has a physiological component such as disease or muscular-skeletal issues, but there’s also frequently a psychological component involved too, such as anxiety, depression, or a history of sexual trauma. Treatment, then, must tackle both sets of symptoms.
Two years into a battle with a neuromuscular disorder called myasthenia gravis, I developed chronic pelvic pain that kept me from enjoying the active sex life with my husband that I was accustomed to. Muscle spasms and searing pain with penetration made even stimulation with fingers problematic.
At my first appointment with my therapist, she asked how often I was having intercourse. Then, she followed up by asking how often I’d like to have intercourse.
I’m not one to let problems linger, so I made an appointment with my OBGYN, who recommended a pelvic floor physical therapist. At my first appointment with my therapist, she asked how often I was having intercourse. Then, she followed up by asking how often I’d like to have intercourse. That’s when I knew I’d met the right person to solve my problems.
My pelvic floor therapist measured the strength and tension of various muscles in my pelvic floor using sensors inside and outside my vaginal canal. I left that appointment with a problem identified – and a solution.
Thanks to muscle weakness caused by my neuromuscular condition, my pelvic floor muscles got confused and decided to lock down. Everything was too tight and spasming. I had pain during penetrative sex, digital stimulation, and even when using tampons or menstrual cups. The pain even radiated into my hip joints and made sitting difficult. The solution? A glorious invention called the pelvic wand and, possibly, a dilator set to help relax my pelvic floor muscles.
A pelvic wand is a small wand covered in medical-grade silicone. I purchased mine from Intimate Rose at the recommendation of my physical therapist. The wand was developed by Dr. Amanda Olson, a pelvic floor rehabilitation specialist, and can be used to release trigger points that cause pelvic pain. (Caution: the wand is not for use with active pelvic infections.) When purchasing, I had the option of three types of wands: regular, vibrating, and a temperature therapy wand. People can use the wand vaginally or anally, so it works for those with vaginas and without. The vibrating wand can help release stubborn trigger points, and the temperature therapy wand can help alleviate some of the pain caused by endometriosis.
After purchasing the wand, I brought it to a physical therapy appointment so my therapist could show me how to use it properly. She taught me to sweep the wand around my vaginal canal to find trigger points and then press into them until they release. It’s essential to press on any trigger points you find gently and to keep your pain level low, so you don’t tense up in response.
That evening, when Hubby and I were intimate, an orgasm set off a spasm in my vaginal canal that had me doubled over. Before trying the pelvic wand, such a spasm would have caused me to say no to further intimate activity. Instead, I used the wand to release the trigger point that caused the spasm while Hubby rubbed my feet to help me relax. Using the wand has allowed me to return to a sex life without a gap between how much sex I want and how much sex I’m having.
Chronic pelvic pain is a complex condition that requires treatment from a doctor. Often, a combination of physical rehabilitation, medications, and therapy is needed to find the underlying cause and treat it effectively. A pelvic wand isn’t quite a magic wand and the results might not be instant but it is one way to achieve the pain-free sex life you’re hoping for. The first step, of course, is talking to your doctor. People do not have to suffer from pelvic pain.