an expert rundown of definition, symptoms, and treatment options

Vulvodynia is- simply put- persistent pain in the vulva- the external genitalia of people assigned female at birth.

Vulvodynia is a common yet widely under-recognised condition. It affects more than
1 in 7 women, girls, and people assigned female at birth.

Symptoms of Vulvodynia

- Burning, stinging, throbbing or soreness in the vulva
- Pain during sex
- Spontaneous pain (doesn't need a trigger)

The pain is often described as burning, “knife-like", or like "acid being poured on the skin".

Living with Vulvodynia often has significant physical and emotional impacts.
It can make it hard to walk/sit, socialise, work, have sex, and exercise, significantly affecting a person's quality of life.

Common (and harmful)
misconceptions around Vulvodynia

"Vulvodynia is a sex disorder"


Vulvodynia is not a sex disorder.
For some, the pain can come only when pressure is applied to the Vulva (e.g. tampon insertion, finger insertion,
penetrative sex).

This type of Vulvodynia is called Provoked Vestibulodynia or PVD.

However, many people with Vulvodynia experience spontaneous pain or have a mixture of both,
making it a very distressing condition to live with.

"Vulvodynia is niche/not very common"


Vulvodynia is VERY common
(affects more than 1 in 7 people with a vulva) and is still shockingly underdiagnosed.

"Vulvodynia is all in your head "
with its unfortunate variations:

"Maybe you should change partner",
"Are you stressed?"
"Do you have past trauma?"


Vulvodynia is a medical condition in its own right that deserves recognition and the right's not in your head.

Treatment options

Treatments for Vulvodynia vary from person to person and typically include topical creams, medication, lifestyle changes, and pelvic floor physiotherapy.

People with Vulvodynia can significantly reduce their symptoms and some fully recover from this condition.

Due to the lack of research on Vulvodynia, recommendations for different treatments should be taken with a pinch of salt. Despite this, there's emerging research demonstrating the positive impact of pelvic floor physiotherapy.

A multidisciplinary approach that includes both physical and mental aspects of living with this condition (biopsychosocial approach) is the most effective as it targets all areas of your health.

Pelvic floor Physiotherapy and Psychology

Physiotherapy is really useful in Vulvodynia due to the underlying tension and/or weakness in the pelvic floor that is often present. Physiotherapy can help improve pelvic function and significantly reduce symptoms, while psychological treatments can help to manage the emotional and psychological impact Vulvodynia.

Femspace offer professionally guided self-help pelvic floor physiotherapy, psychological support and sex and relationship therapy.

In conclusion

Vulvodynia is a complex and often misunderstood condition, but recognising and treating it is crucial. Adults with Vulvodynia can benefit from a comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis, followed by a tailored treatment plan that may include medication, therapy, and lifestyle modifications.

With the right support, people with Vulvodynia significantly improve
their symptoms/be symptom-free, and lead fulfilling lives.

by Hannah Barned

Reviewed by Dr Claudia Chisari