ORIGINAL RESEARCH—SEXUAL PAIN DISORDERS: Effectiveness of Hypnosis for the Treatment of Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome: A Preliminary Investigation


Caroline Pukall, PhD, Queen’s University—Department of Psychology, Humphrey Hall, 62 Arch Street, Kingston, Ontario, K7L 3N6, Canada. Tel: (+1) 613 533 3200; Fax: (+1) 613 533 2499; E-mail: pukallc@post.queensu.ca


Introduction.  Vulvar vestibulitis syndrome (VVS) is a common cause of vulvar pain. Therapeutic options target different pain systems believed to be involved in its development and maintenance. Most treatments target the pain component with the assumption that sexual function will increase once the pain has decreased, yet this is not necessarily the case.

Aims.  Research has supported the effectiveness of hypnosis for many chronic pain disorders, and a case report demonstrated pain reduction and an increase in intercourse pleasure in a woman with VVS. This preliminary study examined the effectiveness of hypnosis on pain and psychosexual function in VVS.

Methods.  Eight women suffering from VVS completed a hypnosis screening assessment, an interview, pain and psychosexual questionnaires, a gynecologic examination, vestibular pain threshold measurement, a psychosexual assessment, and six hypnotherapy sessions. The physical examinations, interview, and questionnaires were repeated at 1 and 6 months posttreatment.

Main Outcome Measures.  These included pain ratings during the gynecologic examination, vestibular pain thresholds, scores on the McGill Pain Questionnaire and Pain Catastrophizing Scale, and responses to questions on intercourse-related and nonintercourse-related pain. Measures of psychosexual function included the Female Sexual Function Index, State-Trait Anxiety Scale, Beck Depression Inventory-II, and the Brief Symptom Inventory.

Results.  Results indicated significant decreases in gynecologic examination pain and in several measures assessing intercourse pain, and nonsignificant increases in threshold. Some indices of noncoital vulvar pain decreased. Overall sexual function, particularly sexual satisfaction, increased at posttreatment. There were no differences on any psychological measure. Participants reported satisfaction with the treatment and rated their VVS pain reduction as average.

Conclusions.  Hypnotherapy appears to be a promising treatment for reducing intercourse pain and some aspects of noncoital vulvar pain, and for restoring sexual function in women with VVS. These results suggest that a large controlled trial should be considered. Pukall C, Kandyba K, Amsel R, Khalifé S, and Binik Y. Effectiveness of hypnosis for the treatment of vulvar vestibulitis syndrome: A preliminary investigation. J Sex Med 2007;4:417–425.