“I get turned on, but then it feels like knives when I try to have sex.”
“The pain is so intense, I can’t even put a tampon in.”
“I’m afraid no one will want me, because intercourse is so painful.”
These words from Girl Boner® readers and listeners are heart-wrenching, and more common than many folks realize. Most folks with a vulva experience pelvic pain or pain during sex at some point. While occasional flareups aren’t generally cause for alarm, recurrent or chronic pain could reflect the need for treatment. The good news is, there’s a whole lot of hope to be had if this is the case for you.
Last week, I had the pleasure of chatting with Kayna Cassard, a sex therapist who specializes in pelvic pain. Inspired by her longtime passion for helping people cultivate vibrant intimate lives, and her own personal experience with such pain, Kayna offers individual and group counseling specifically for managing these issues. If at all possible, she said, she doesn’t want other women to go through the trials and frustration she did in seeking healing.
“I was passed from doctor to doctor, from gynecologist to gynecologist, trying to figure out what was going on,” she explained. “Meanwhile, over the course of years, it was impacting my relationship, it was impacting my lifestyle and I felt really alone because even the medical professionals had no idea what to do with me.”
She’s now pain-free, and wants the same for others. Here are just some of the mighty takeaways Kayna shed light on:
1 – Finding a specialist, i.e., a medical professional who specializes in pelvic pain is an important first step in healing.
2 – Next, you’ll ideally find a pelvic floor therapist to work with—a physical therapist who has specialization in pelvic floor dysfunction.
3 – For some people, these two steps are enough. “Someone women just need it to be acknowledged that this is a thing,” said Kayna. “There might be some medical treatment or some pelvic floor work that they need to do to release the muscle tension, and that affects them in wonderful ways and they find that they can be pain-free.”
4 – For many other women, pelvic pain creates a cycle of anxiety, stress, shame and relationship difficulties. If this is the case for you, work with a psychotherapist who specializes in these issues, if you can.
5 – A lack of awareness of the body—”a disconnection between the body and the mind,” said Kayna—is a very common contributor to pelvic pain.
6 – You may also hold a lot of tension in your pelvic floor, the same way others might hold stress or anxiety in their necks or backs. (See #3!)
7 – Other physical factors, such as the type of birth control you may have used for a lengthy time period or a condition like vaginismus, and emotional factors, such as growing up with negative messaging about sex and sexuality, can also contribute.
8 – Every step toward healing counts! Celebrate the “little wins” along the way, suggests Kayna. “Oftentimes the goal for women is, ‘I just want to have pain-free sex!'” While that’s a great longterm goal, she said, recognizing and taking joy in smaller steps forward can boost your morale and progress.
9 – Grinning and bearing painful sex is never ideal. It’s natural to feel inclined to bear pain during sex for the sake of your partner, but doing so perpetuates a cycle of pain and irritation, said Kayna. This can lead to involuntarily shutting down arousal and desire, while inviting more undue discomfort.
10 – Regardless of the cause, a mind-body-spirit approach can work wonders. This includes surrounding yourself with folks who lift you higher.
“For me, the a-ha moment was surrounding myself with a lot of wonderful women,” said Kayna, “women who embrace female empowerment and the female spirit…honoring that sacred space and allowing me to be whoever I was, with emotions and experience…and being able to process that who I am is okay. The sexuality I want to bring to myself is okay.”
If you’re experiencing pelvic pain and have a question, could use a referral or would like to potentially work with Kayna, contact her directly: firstname.lastname@example.org 424-272-5521
Learn more at kaynacassard.com.