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Vaginismus, vagina, exercising, and sports

If you do an Internet search about this topic, you will find plenty of warnings against sports and exercising for they ‘contribute to or cause vaginismus.’

These warnings are FALSE, and do a tremendous disservice to the psyche of the woman who is already feeling broken and ashamed about her vaginismus.

These warnings are the result of attempts to understand vaginismus and to offer treatment when in reality they prove a gross misunderstanding of the condition, and definitely do not provide a suitable solution.

  • Can I exercise if I have vaginismus?

  • Will doing sports cause me to have vaginismus?

  • Is working out going to make my vaginismus worse?

  • Am I to avoid certain exercises/sports but continue with others?

  • Should I give up being sport-minded and stop working out or doing my favorite sport?

  • My doctor/physical therapist/psychotherapist told me to stop (swimming, squatting, running, cycling, dancing, gymnastics, horseback riding, cheer-leading, etc) — what should I do?

We have had many patients who told us of such given instructions by their clinicians who tried to cure their vaginismus to no avail.  These ladies questioned this advice, stopped doing what they enjoy and love became more fearful of using their body, more distressed — you get the picture.

So let’s get to the truth about the vagina, vaginismus, and exercising:

  • The body was ‘designed’ for procreation to ensure the continuation of the species, we included;
  • The vaginal role is to be the passageway from the outside world to the uterus and vice versa, a passageway for semen delivery and for childbirth;
  • With procreation being an essential purpose, the vagina was created for optimal function.  While there are occasions of genital deformities, the rest of the time the vagina is ready and available;
  • The pelvic floor muscles surround the lower vagina and participate in voiding mechanisms, assist in supporting the area, and quiver during sexual climax (orgasm), all involuntary, automatic functions;
  • The pelvic floor muscles also include voluntary fibers that are under our conscious control, hence the ability to do Kegel exercises for strengthening the area, or to clench the vaginal opening if/when penetration is not permitted/not wanted/is scary.  Note, however, that the clenching does not prevent forceful penetration even if it feels to you like ‘a brick wall…’
  • Strong pelvic floor muscles are not a cause nor a contributor to vaginismus.  Nature is always ensuring our continued existence;
  • Another common false premise yet a very popular treatment approach to vaginismus: lower body and hip stretches.  Why false? because stretching plays no role in addressing vaginismus as the vagina is NOT engaged in any movement during these activities;
  • And a third false common intervention: manual stretching and separating of the vaginal lips (the labia majora and minora) when there is nothing wrong with the woman’s anatomy…
  • Working out, doing sports, dancing, horseback riding, swimming, etc., do not interfere with the functional role of the vagina and its muscles.  We even treated a patient with severe Cerebral Palsy who presented with tremendously active muscle spasms (spasticity) in her lower body, yet her vagina was working perfectly fine during the treatment process!
  • Lastly, let’s roll the clock back: our female ancestors worked rather hard physically to survive, moving and using their bodies/vaginas in much more strenuous ways than we do today.  They gave birth in the field, then got up and returned to work, carrying the newborn on their backs.  The body is resilient, and is ensuring our survival!

So why is there vaginismus?  Not because of physical activity, but rather because of anxiety/stress/fears of using the vagina.  In other words, it is a psychosomatic phenomenon, a Fight or Flight response gone awry.  An in-depth explanation of this can be found on our main Vaginismus page, including an illustrative video.

Our recommendation: attend to your vaginismus but do not give up on activities you enjoy.  Continue to lead an active lifestyle for it will not affect your vaginismus, but rather help you be healthy and feeling better about yourself!

Help us spread awareness and truth about vaginismus – please share this post with your vaginismus clinician.

About The Author

vaginismus specialist Dr. Ditza Katz team member Women's Therapy Center

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