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Heightened Pelvic Floor Muscle Tone and Altered Contractility in Women With Provoked Vestibulodynia

5 April 2017

Publication Date
April 2017

Original Abstract
Pelvic floor muscle (PFM) dysfunctions are reported to be involved in provoked vestibulodynia (PVD). Although heightened PFM tone has been suggested, the relative contribution of active and passive components of tone remains misunderstood. Likewise, alterations in PFM contractility have been scarcely studied. To compare PFM tone, including the relative contribution of its active and passive components, and muscular contractility in women with PVD and asymptomatic controls.

Fifty-six asymptomatic women and 56 women with PVD participated in the study. The PVD diagnosis was confirmed by a gynecologist based on a standardized examination. PFM function was evaluated using a dynamometric speculum combined with surface electromyography (EMG). PFM general tone was evaluated in static conditions at different vaginal apertures and during repeated dynamic cyclic stretching. The active contribution of tone was characterized using the ratio between EMG in a static position and during stretching and the proportion of women presenting PFM activation during stretching.

Contribution of the passive component was evaluated using resting forces, stiffness, and hysteresis in women sustaining a negligible EMG signal during stretching. PFM contractility, such as strength, speed of contraction, coordination, and endurance, also was assessed during voluntary isometric efforts.

Greater PFM resting forces and stiffness were found in women with PVD compared with controls, indicating an increased general tone. An increased active component also was found in women with PVD because they presented a superior EMG ratio, and a larger proportion of them presented PFM activation during stretching. Higher passive properties also were found in women with PVD. Women with PVD also showed decreased strength, speed of contraction, coordination, and endurance compared with controls. Findings provide further evidence of the contribution of PFM alterations in the etiology of PVD. These alterations should be assessed to provide patient-centered targeted treatment options.

The use of a validated tool investigating PFM alterations constitutes a strength of this study. However, the study design does not allow the determination of the sequence of events in which these muscle alterations occurred-before or after the onset of PVD. Findings support the involvement of active and passive components of PFM tone and an altered PFM contractility in women with PVD.

Morin, M., M. Binik, Y., Bourbonnais, D., Khalifé, S., Ouellet, S. and Bergeron, S. (2017). Heightened pelvic floor muscle tone and altered contrac women with provoked vestibulodynia. Journal of Sexual Medicine. DOI: 10.1016/jsxm.2017.02.012.

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