General Question

livelaughlove21's avatar

(NSFW) Exercise with chronic vaginal irritation?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (14620 points ) October 10th, 2012 from iPhone

For the past 2 months, I’ve been dealing with ongoing vaginal irritation (hypersensitivity, pain, general uncomfortable feeling) with no explanation as of yet. I’ve seen multiple doctors with no answer but I’ve gotten to a point where I can wear jeans and walk around campus without being miserable again. However, friction is my main issue and the only time I experience symptoms (this issue is on the labia majora, not inside the vagina).

I’m not asking for advice on the medical issue. However, I’ve gained some weight that I need to get off. The issue is that any exercise that causes friction down there (i.e. any cardio exercise) makes my issue worse. I wear loose clothes, get out of wet clothes immediately, and shower afterwards, but still even 15 minutes of jogging/dancing/etc makes my entire day miserable.

I don’t want to make the irritation worse, but I really need to get off these extra pounds. I’m told doing squats, push-ups, crunches, etc is useless without cardio and I might as well not exercise at all.

I’m changing my eating habits, but I’d like to do some type of exercise to help me along. I’ve gone two months waiting for this issue to get better, but I have no reason to believe it will. It may not get much better than manageable, so I’ve got to figure something out.

Any ideas or advice would be greatly appreciated.

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40 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Have you tried swimming laps? (You’re on a college campus, if I remember correctly. That usually means there’s a pool available.)

What about walking?

wildpotato's avatar

There are a few cardio exercises out there that don’t involve moving your legs. Ever try kayaking? It’s enormous fun, tones the abs, and is quite the workout. Canoeing is more of an arm and shoulder workout, and again involves little leg motion. There’s also handcycling, which you can do on the road or as a stationary cycle. Pretty much every physical therapy practice has a stationary handcycle, and many practices offer wellness or training programs that can give you access to the machines.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@gailcalled I don’t live on campus, but I believe I do have access to a pool there. I also have a pool in our subdivision. Unfortunately, they’re both outdoor pools and closed until Summer. Also, I walk quite a bit at school with minor to moderate irritation because I have to, but it doesn’t seem to be enough. I can’t power walk because it increases friction.

@wildpotato Those are great suggestions, but I can’t afford any exercise equipment or a gym membership. I’m pretty much left using my own body and light arm weights I have.

gailcalled's avatar

Can I assume that you have tried all the available topical lubrications, including vasoline and yogurt?

wildpotato's avatar

How about boxing? There’s some lower body motion, but the vast majority is in the arms, and it looks exhausting! I bet you have intramural boxing on campus. And my lady friends who have tried it tell me it’s empowering.

Kayak8's avatar

This might help.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@gailcalled I’ve tried it all. As far as treatment, I’ve been on Lactobacillus, steroid gel, diflucan, valtrex, desitin, anti-biotics. I’ve tried all the home remedies as well. I’m now wearing mostly loose clothing, cotton underwear, unscented detergent, no soap…you name it. It was much worse than it is now, so I shouldn’t complain, but an answer would be nice. No infection, no STDs, no rash or any visible sign of a problem, no additional symptoms…and no complete relief!

JLeslie's avatar

Swimming is a great idea when summer rolls around, hopefully this won’t be an issue by then.

I have to address the medical problem a little before I can address how to help you. Because depending on possible causes and what has given you relief we can figure out better what might help. Without going on too much I have a few questions.

Is your vulva actually red in the areas that are irritated?

Have you recently started having sex with latex condoms?

If you rinse your vulva do you get a lot of relief? If you use a bottle of water to rinse after you urinate and take a quick bath every morning and every evening. It is a very good test to figure out if the irritation might be from your discharge. You would know within 3 days if it is helping, you cam try it over a weekend. Also, wearing tampons during the day can be a similar test, and then a quick bath just morning and evening.

Vulvodynia, chronic vulva pain, sometimes is caused by a nerve and muscle problem, but be warned, once you are diagnosed with that they will stop looking for other explanations. They will suggest antidepressent drugs, and neural drugs, and I don’t recommend it.

Do you have other symptoms like unusual discharge?

Do you have a thyroid problem?

Are other parts of your body dry? Skin, hair, eyes?

I am sure people and doctors have already suggested new soaps and detergents you might have started using.

You can try a little vaseline or A&D ointment on the vulva to protect it. Also OTC cortizone cream or ointment will probably help a lot if there is irritation and swelling. Don’t get cortizone with any numbing agents or biotanicals added.

JLeslie's avatar

I just read your answer above mine, I think I was writing while you were posting. Take heart there are a lot of women like us. It sucks! The antibiotic Augmentin is like a magic pill for me. Also, rinsing with water is magical, but a pain. Recently, I switched my thyroid med to the natural, which has significantly raised my T3, which is one of the thyroid hormones, and it seems to have very much affected my vulva in a positive way. Can’t be sure though, I only started taking it 3 weeks ago, so could just be a good few weeks.

I wanted to add you cannot and must not rely on doctors to tell you if your vulva looks fine or irritated, you have to pull out your own mirror and look where your discomfort is and see if it is redder than other areas. Vulvas come in too many colors pale pink to much redder, and most doctors can’t differentiate if you are irritated.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@wildpotato Nice one, thanks!

@Kayak8 I’ve been looking for something like that! Unscented is a big plus, but I’m not sure i should put that in such a sensitive spot. I’m SUPER sensitive. I’ll run it by my doctor, thanks!

@JLeslie I’m glad I’m not the only one. Yes, my doctor and I have been through all of those options to no avail. A month ago I could barely walk around my house without serious hypersensitivity. The strange thing is my dad has shingles and he described the same exact feelings I described. But I don’t have sores and it’s on both sides. I’ve always had issues down there, even as a kid, but it’s never been like this. So depressing. I’m just glad it’s improved enough so I can have a sex life again…and my husband is too! ;)

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 I don’t believe it is shingles or herpes related. Doctors back in the day wanted to believe it was HPV, then it went through a herpes stage in the medical field, then the diagnosis vulvodynia became more well known and they gave a lot of patients drugs that worked on slowing the nerve impulses. Awful!

Have you actually tried rinsing with water? Keeping the area free from your discharge for a few days?

What antibiotics have you tried out of curiosity? Did your problems in general start after you became sexually active?

livelaughlove21's avatar

@JLeslie Yeah, I’ve tried keeping the area dry, didn’t help any noticeable amount. I forgot what antibiotic I was on, I just know it wasn’t Flagyl. And no, there seems to be no sex connection.

Pandora's avatar

Other than swimming as already suggested, I don’t see that anything else would really help being it probably has more to do with sweating.
If you think it may be sweat related, then switch to only cotton clothing. @JLeslie has some excellent suggestions. Don’t wear spandex, you may be allergic.

Would you say the problem is most severe when you are on your cycle?
If it is then you may also be allergic to your pads or they simply make you sweat more. Change them often and shower more often. Same for when you exercise. Take a cool shower shortly following your exercise. Remember that exercise is going to make you sweat all over your body, so there is no exercise that will prevent your privates from being over heated. Avoid and perfumes, or deodorants for your private parts.
Do not douche. It actually causes more problems. Just wash well with unscented soap. Dove is pretty gentle and is often recommended for sensitive skin.

You can try splashing some Sea Breeze on your privates after the shower. It will help balance your ph levels. Let it air dry. Your privates have sebaceous glands that can become irritated and infected when you are overheated. Yes, it will sting but once the problem goes away it won’t sting any more. And double rinse all your underwear and don’t use dryer towels. They all leave chemicals all over your clothing.
Most of all try to keep it dry. Moisture, heat and darkness are bacterias play ground.
Throw in an unbalanced PH level and or allergies and its almost impossible to keep things from going bad. Even your own pee can cause problems if you don’t drink enough water. But I said almost. Not totally impossible if you take extreme care.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Pandora I’ve already been doing everything you’ve suggested, but thank you. I don’t wear pads, it doesn’t get worse while I’m on my period, I keep it dry and clean, nothing scented, no douches, etc. It’s gotten to the point where I may just have to learn to live with this.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Dry? What does that mean? You mean to avoid yeast? I said keeping it free off disharge. Wiping the area and drying with a hair dryer does not do what I am talking about.

Another suggestion switch from bar soap to liquid soap to wash the area. Start with baby soap liquid, but even any liquid I suggest over bar.

I really don’t think it is an allergy. Girls are innies afterall.

JLeslie's avatar

Just to add, my pH was always perfect at the doctors office, I never tested positive for yeast (except when I took mega mega antibiotics) it wasn’t my pee, I did all the allergy testing and contact dermitis, not one positive chemical, nut, blade of grass, or shelfish, not one. I have had shingles, it definitely is not that. All the obvious things are a big fat no for me, and obviously for you too. However the area is more sensitive for me, sensitive to things like bar soap as I mentioned above I don’t believe it is an allergy. Kind of like if you have strep throat the orange juice that never bothers you now hurts going down. I did have discharge symptoms. My discharge at one point was green, and would crust over so much my hair was stuck to my panties, I bled every day for a few years there when my symptoms were off the charts. Cultures always came back normal. Most years I do not have such exagerated symptoms, but some of them I had much much more pain even in the absense of the obvious bad discharge. I do believe it might be an undiagnosed bacteria. Chlamydia used to be thought of as normal flora, until about 40 years ago they decided it was pathogenic. Your cultures just come back normal flora, they do not identify what actually grows. When I take augmentin my seemingly normal looking vulva gets really normal, my normal. It gets much much pinker, it is observable. My sex drive goes up, everything changes.

But, what throws a twist in my blatant bacterial symptoms is the new thyroid drug giving me some relief.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@JLeslie I keep it dry from sweat and discharge, but I’ve also worn tampons to keep the discharge off the skin altogether. I keep it dry for my own comfort. Moisture there makes it even more uncomfortable.

I don’t have any abnormal discharge or bleeding. I had a thin odorless white discharge for a few days, the doc checked it under the microscope, and nothing was abnormal. Apparently I’m an enigma.

JLeslie's avatar

@livelaughlove21 You are not an enigma. Have you seen a vulvodynia specialist?

Moisture, your moisture? Does sitting in a bath give you relief? I still don’t feel like you are rinsing the area. I think since tampons help, rinsing will help further. Rinse, and then dry well of course.

Shippy's avatar

I am no expert and looks like most of the answerers above have some great suggestions. I’ve had a few issues myself recently and was warned against Vaseline though. Also I know when I was having issues, I became super vigilant, meaning, over cleaning which can irritate it more. I imagine you went to a gynecologist? Plus she did a scan? I just kept thinking thrush as I read your post. I know you didn’t ask for advice but sounds like you are very uncomfortable. Sometimes thrush can remain (hidden). In that it shows in softer ways and not so obvious. It could also be bacterial diagnosis (from thin watery discharge you discribe) , which antibiotics can cause a rebound affect. Please do keep us posted and hope it settles down for you.

rooeytoo's avatar

I can’t stand tight underwear. I usually wear great old baggy granny underpants if I wear any at all. And when you exercise do you wear technical fabrics? They can make a great difference. Sometimes if I have to wear underwear I will wear compression shorts because they are of a wicking material. The usual silky type of women’s underwear is not absorbent and cotton if it is against your skin doesn’t wick, it just holds the moisture against you. These are not solutions I am sure, but perhaps will ease the problem a bit.

hearkat's avatar

Monistat Soothing Care Anti-Chafing Powder-Gel may be good for when exercising.

I’ve also had undiagnosable irritation for ages, and when mine flares up, I use MiraCell Skin Relief and Support Oil I like their other products, too; but the oil is what soothes it so I can sleep at night.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@JLeslie I don’t rinse now, because the problem has gotten to where it only occasionally bothers me. But about a month ago, when I was absolutely miserable, I would use water to rinse after I peed because wiping hurt. It helped in the sense that I didn’t have to wipe, but never improved the problem. At one time, baths made it feel better for a short time, but yes, I meant my moisture. Sweat or discharge has always given me a gross, itchy feeling, so I keep myself dry by not wearing pantiliners and going to the restroom every hour or so when I’m out walking around campus. It works out because I drink a lot of water, so I pee quite a bit. I never said tampons helped. They kept the area dry, but the irritation only improved as far as keeping the icky, itchy feeling away. But itch is not my main concern, as I’ve always had that response to sitting moisture there. It’s the tenderness/hypersensitivity that bothers me. No, I haven’t seen a vulvodynia specialist because my symptoms don’t seem to fit. I have no pain inside, not even during intercourse. It’s just the skin, but there are no outward signs of a problem.

@Shippy I’ve seen multiple gynecologists. Not sure what you mean by a “scan” but I’ve had multiple swabs done and there’s no bacteria or anything abnormal under the microscope. It’s definitely not thrush. I’ve been treated for it with no result, and I’m quite familiar with thrush, so I know this is something different.

Shippy's avatar

@livelaughlove21 How about allergies, either food, or contact with certain soaps washing powders or types of underwear material?

gorillapaws's avatar

What about doing aerobics wearing only a sports bra in your bedroom with the door locked and the blinds down?

livelaughlove21's avatar

@gorillapaws Well that would certainly remind me of all of the wiggles and jiggles I’m trying to get rid of. Could either be motivational or downright depressing. Heh. But something to consider for sure.

gailcalled's avatar

^^^Suggest strongly that you don’t try it. Thighs brushing against each other will give you a nice case of prickly heat or heat rash fairly quickly.

I tried the tread mill in undies without my sweats once…lasted for five minutes.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@gailcalled I normally wear really short cotton shorts that bare almost my entire leg anyways. Not sure why an extra inch (if that) would change anything.

gailcalled's avatar

@gailcalled: I was speaking from my own experience…Sorry, I should not have extrapolated from that.

hearkat's avatar

@gailcalled: The Monistat gel I posted about works for chub-rub, too… that’s what I got it for.

rooeytoo's avatar

Under armour compression shorts with the knee length inseam solves all those problems and wick away sweat as well! If I wear them outside I wear cotton jersey shorts overtop.

deni's avatar

I had something like a yeast infection for a few weeks but without a few of the major telltale signs of a yeast infection. Like, the smell and the weird discharge weren’t there but it was very itchy and irritated and friction bothered me. So, I didn’t go to a doctor and I don’t actually know what it was, but I assumed because of the itching (and because I’d been tested and knew it wasn’t an STD) that it was something like a yeast infection. I put a clove of garlic in my vag a couple days in a row and boom, hasn’t been back since. I have no idea if this will help you, but it cleared up my problem like a miracle. Worth a shot?

wilma's avatar

@deni did it smell bad? I mean when you were using the garlic?
I can’t imagine. I’m glad it worked for you.

deni's avatar

@wilma Did what smell bad? No nothing smelled bad. Just garlicky, which I kinda enjoyed haha, BUT it’s crazy, and I read this online before I did it and thought it was weird: they said most women do it at night because as soon as you put the garlic in, you taste it in your mouth. Like you just ATE a clove of garlic. Sure enough, that happened. But I love garlic so I didn’t really mind, I just chewed gum. lol

wilma's avatar

Yes @deni I meant the garlic. I believe that you could taste it, and that just shows you how it did get into your system.
Hmm… garlic suppository, I don’t think I like garlic quite that much.

Unbroken's avatar

Rebounding the rebounder costs about 80 but it takes up little space and is quite effective. Said to burn more calories the jogging and more fun too. You can avoid the motion’s that involve too much friction. YouTube the exercise programs first to check it out. Otherwise boxing is quite intensive though it would be difficult to spar with someone with just upper body motion and while I love kayaking the weather is not right for that. Sorry about your health issue. I have no advice to offer on that matter.

Shippy's avatar

@deni Just curious. You place the clove on its own? Peeled of course? Want to try this myself.

Unbroken's avatar

@livelaughlove21 actually have you considered an iga or igg food allergy or sensitivity? f you didn’t want to test for it you could try a food elimination diet

livelaughlove21's avatar

@rosehips No, I haven’t considered that. But it doesn’t get worse after eating certain foods. And my diet has changed since the onset of symptoms with no change. Lastly, the symptoms I started with probably wouldn’t be caused by food.

Unbroken's avatar

@livelaughlove21 actually perhaps but as a person with celiac disease and a sensitivity to yeast I do try to refrain from thinking everyone is like me. However CD is chronically under diagnosed, and I do get itchy down there when I mistakingly consume gluten or yeast. Which happen to be very pervasive in the American diet.

deni's avatar

@Shippy Yes, peel a whole clove. Fresher the better. If you cut an end off and expose some of the inside, it’s even more powerful. It can burn a little, but even when I did cut the clove it wasn’t unbearable. I did this at work, so that should tell you that it wasn’t really much of a big deal! :)

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