If you are reading this, you most likely have vulvodynia.
And if you have vulvodynia, you have most likely been diagnosed with it by your GP and/or a Gynaecologist.
At that point, you would most likely have been prescribed Amitriptyline or Nortriptyline (an antidepressant drug), or at least it was prescribed to you, and you're thinking about it.
This is not an anti-drug piece, nor do I go against Western medicine at all, but let's understand everything in its place and terms... stick with me.
Do these drugs treat the pain? Technically, no. Endep/Amitriptyline/Nortriptyline do not heal tissue or reduce inflammation.
Do they modulate the pain signal so you don't perceive it as much? We think so, yes. The main known effect of the drug is to modulate your pain signals, to turn down the volume or the brain's perceived volume of the pain. So, it can be effective in getting you through the day and some rough patches. But as far as we know, it doesn't actually heal tissue; it just provides a break for your brain so you don't feel in pain all the time. Then, the hope is that while you are on the medication, the vaginal tissue will heal, and the pain will resolve on its own in time. Quite often, in my experience, it doesn't.
However, my approach is different.
Hi, I'm Chris. I am a qualified acupuncturist with 20 years of experience, and I have treated over 100 women with vulvodynia. I also have a background in engineering, biology, and I have lectured at RMIT University for 11 years.
I was never taught how to treat vulvodynia; I had to work it out myself, with great effort over 15 years. But, in the last year (2023), I can say, I have finally cracked the code. Acupuncture helps to achieve a roughly 90% reduction in pain, in roughly 70% of patients, as seen in studies.
The common story
The story of the women, young and old, who come into my clinic with this condition is generally a very similar picture. No particular event occurred; at some point, there seemed to be irritation in the vagina, which was originally thought to be candida/thrush, so they took Canesten or a similar antifungal medication. That didn't help. They then went to their GP, and they prescribed antibiotics. That didn't help; it may have, in fact, made things worse. At this point, they are given a referral to a Gynecologist/OBGYN. They leave the appointment for a few weeks, hoping things will resolve, but unfortunately, they don't. They then book in to see the Gynecologist, who does an inspection with a Q-tip touch test, and a diagnosis of Vulvodynia is arrived at.
At this point, one of the above medications is often prescribed, sometimes with a local numbing agent such as Lidocaine. The patient is advised to wear loose-fitting clothing, avoid tampons, avoid sex, avoid stress, and see a pelvic physio.
From there, sometimes the pain will resolve, which is fantastic. However, for many women, it does not. One of my most recent patients has had vulvodynia for 9 years. The good news is, after starting acupuncture and 5 sessions in, her pain is down from 9/10 to 0-1/10 daily. We now stretch out her treatments to once every 2 weeks instead of weekly. We will do that for another few sessions, reassess, and hopefully, I am not needed at that point. No more treatments needed, most likely for life.
If you or a loved one is suffering from vulvodynia and/or vaginismus, please feel free to contact us for treatment. Please remember, this took me 15 years to work out, so not every acupuncturist will know how exactly to treat vulvodynia. And, it doesn't take that long to treat, even if you've had it for 10 years or more.
Wishing you a healthy and pain-free day!