What Can I Do About Vulvodynia?

Medically Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on December 12, 2022

Vulvodynia is chronic pain around the opening of your vagina in the area of your vulva. It isn’t known exactly what causes it. But there’s plenty you can do to ease the symptoms. Use these self-care tips to control the pain and keep it from getting worse.

It’s important to keep your vaginal area cool and dry.

Wear white cotton underwear during the day and sleep without it at night. Steer clear of tight-fitting skirts and pants. If you wear pantyhose or tights, switch to thigh-high or knee-length options that don’t block airflow to the vaginal area. When you swim or exercise, remove wet or sweaty clothing quickly.

The products you use to clean your clothes may irritate your vaginal area.

Use gentle detergent that’s been approved by dermatologists. Double-rinse underwear in the wash to make sure they’re free of soap or chemicals. Don’t use fabric softener.

Switch to a soft, white, unscented brand of toilet paper. Use only 100% cotton pads and tampons. Avoid scented, perfumed creams, soaps, and bubble bath.

Be gentle when you wash. Use cool or lukewarm water and your hand, then a clean towel to dry off. Keep shampoo, which can flow down from your head while showering, away from your vaginal area.

To create a barrier between your vagina and clothing, apply petroleum jelly to your vulva after showering.

Avoid hot tubs and highly chlorinated pools. Instead, soak in a sitz bath a few times a day for 5 to 10 minutes at a time.

What you eat may have an effect on your symptoms, for better or for worse.

Processed foods, and those that have caffeine, acid, and lots of sugar can make symptoms worse. Try taking one thing out of your diet at a time. Keep track of how your body reacts.

Pressure on your bladder and bowel can cause vulvodynia to flare up. Pee regularly instead of waiting for your bladder to be full, and rinse the vaginal area with water afterwards to clean it off. Add fiber to your diet to help you stay regular.

Protect yourself before sex by applying a water-soluble lubricant. Avoid contraceptive creams and spermicides. If you want to temporarily numb the area, try a topical anesthetic, like lidocaine gel.

After sex, pee and rinse with cool or lukewarm water to clean around your vagina. If you feel a burning sensation, wrap a frozen ice cube or gel pack in a small towel and hold it gently on your vagina for a few minutes.

Anything that puts external pressure on your vaginal area can make vulvodynia worse. Focus on stretching and relaxation exercises, like yoga, instead of bike or horseback riding.

Stand as often as you can, especially if you work at a desk. Try a foam rubber donut for a softer sitting surface.

Show Sources


Mayo Clinic: "Vulvodynia."

National Vulvodynia Association: "What is Vulvodynia?" "What Causes Vulvodynia?"

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Vulvodynia."

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