Hi friends! Have you heard of a pelvic wand? How about vaginal weights ,pessaries, or dilators? These are items we often recommend to patients in pelvic floor therapy. When they are recommended, sometimes individuals are hesitant to get and use them because they are uncomfortable with using sex toys. So the question is, are these tools or toys?
The simple answer is: these are tools not toys. Because they can often look similar to sex toys and are inserted in the same places, it is common to be uneasy about using these products. Some individuals initially think that using these products is a form of masturbation; however, by definition is “erotic stimulation of one’s own genitals” (Merriam-Webster). By using these products, we are not attempting to stimulate the genitals and instead we are trying to improve the pelvic floor. It’s almost like wearing underwear—it may touch the genitals when we wear it but not in a stimulating manner.
What do these tools do? A pelvic wand is a tool that can be inserted either vaginally or rectally to reach the pelvic floor muscles to allow us to release them. The wands are designed to curve to allow us to reach the pelvic floor muscles on the inside of the pelvic bowl. In one study of patients with chronic pelvic pain, using a pelvic wand showed to significantly improve pelvic pain, with some patients being able to stop taking medications for pain altogether (Anderson, 2015).
Vaginal weights were invented by Plevnik in 1985 to help with pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT) (Bo, 2015). These weights are essentially a dumbbell, but for your pelvic floor. Vaginal weights can help increase pelvic floor muscle tone, endurance, and coordination which can help with a variety of symptoms like urinary incontinence, anal incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and decreased pleasure with intercourse.
A pessary is a device (typically made of silicone) that is inserted into the vaginal canal to provide internal support to the walls of the vagina (Bo, 2015). Pessaries have been used since ancient times, and they used to be made of materials like pomegranates or wool—thankfully technology has advanced since then (Bo, 2015). Once the pessary is inserted into the vagina, it can alleviate those symptoms like heaviness and vaginal bulging by providing physical support to the vaginal walls to stop the pelvic organs from falling. Pessaries are an alternative option for women who cannot or do not want to have surgery for pelvic organ prolapse (Bo, 2015).
Vaginal dilators can be extremely helpful in treating a variety of pelvic pain conditions. There can be a need to use vaginal dilators after cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy, especially with breast or colorectal cancers. These treatments can cause vaginal stenosis (narrowing/shortening of the vaginal tissue and canal). Dilators work to help teach the body to become comfortable with the sensation of the vaginal tissue and pelvic floor muscles stretching. They help to increase the elasticity of the vaginal tissue—like a rubber band, we want the tissue to be able to expand and contract to allow for penetration but also to keep the vaginal canal closed when needed.
Remember, you are always in control of your body and should always be making the final decision. It’s okay if you don’t feel comfortable using these tools. If you are expericing any symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, seeing a pelvic floor therapist can be a great resource. They can help you develop a comprehensive treatment plan to address any symptoms you may be having. They can help recommend the right tools for you while also giving you alternative treatment options. You can ask your provider for a referral or find a pelvic therapist near you at www.mypfm.com/find-a-pt.
To learn more about your pelvic floor muscles, check out these great resources:
Evidence Based Use of Vaginal Weights in Pelvic Rehabilitation with Dr. Amanda Olson, PT, DPT, PRPC
Pessaries: What Pelvic Floor Therapists Need to Know with Dr. Amanda Olson, PT, DPT, PRPC
Vaginal Dilators: Evidence-Based Research Review with Dr. Amanda Olson, PT, DPT, PRPC
Written by Emily Reul, PT, DPT
Anderson RU, Harvery RH, Wise D, Smith JN, Nathanson BH, Sawyer T. Chronic pelvic pain syndrome: reduction of medication use after pelvic floor physical therapy with an internal myofascial trigger point wand. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2015;40(1):45-52.
Bo K, Berghmans B, Morkved S, Van Kampen M. Evidenced-based physical therapy for the pelvic floor bridging science and clinical practice. 2nd edition. 2015.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary website. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/masturbation.