Painful Sex Specialist

Many conditions can cause painful sex symptoms. Embry Women’s Health is skilled in diagnosing the causes of painful sex and helping Mesa, Arizona, women get the treatment they need to relieve symptoms, restore confidence and feel better about their health.


Painful Sex Q & A

What is vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia is classified as chronic pain or discomfort, which includes burning, stinging, irritation or rawness of the female genitalia, specifically of the vulva. The word “vulvodynia” actually means “painful vulva.” This condition can severely impact the quality of life for affected women and may prohibit participation in sexual activity, physical exercise and even social activities. The condition is believed to be underreported because of its lack of visible symptoms and often a woman’s reluctance to talk about her symptoms. As many as one in six women may be affected by vulvodynia at some point in their life.

What is the cause of vulvodynia?

Vulvodynia does not have one set cause, but several factors can contribute to the development of chronic vulvar pain. A history of recurrent vaginitis or vaginal yeast infections, as well as allergies, lupus, eczema, hip or back injury or hormonal imbalance can be some causes of this condition.

What is vulvar vestibulodynia?  (vulvar vestibulitis)

Vulvar vestibulitis is a form of vulvodynia in which a patient’s pain occurs in the vestibule, or the area around the opening of the vagina. This condition can produce a burning sensation that may be persistent or arise mainly when pressure is placed on the vestibule. It is a common cause of sexual pain. It can be tested by a “q-tip test ” touching the tiny gland openings at the entrance to the vagina with a cotton-tipped applicator. If the patient suffers from vulvodynia, the area will be extremely sensitive.

What is the cause of vulvar vestibulitis?

The cause of vulvar vestibulitis is unknown, but inflammation, past infections, nerve injury and hormonal changes are all believed to be contributing factors.

What is the treatment of vulvar vestibulitis?

There are a number of methods available to effectively treat vulvar vestibulitis. These include the use of estrogen hormones, topical anesthetics, prescription medications that disrupt some nerve impulses and physical therapy focused on the pelvic muscles. In more severe cases that do not respond to conservative treatments, vestibulectomy surgery may be recommended. This procedure involves removing some of the tissue of the vestibule to relieve symptoms.

Are there skin conditions that can cause vulvodynia?

Vulvar dermatoses, caused by dermatologic conditions, such as lichens sclerosis, are often present in the form of itching and burning.  They are conditions associated with chronic vulvar pain and these conditions can coexist with vulvodynia.

Can vulvar pain be more generalized?

Dysesthetic vulvodynia, or generalized vulvodynia, where symptoms occur throughout the vulvar anatomy and can occur constantly or intermittently. Patients have reported pain in the labia majora, labia minora, vestibule, clitoris and/or inner thighs. Pressure to the vulva can trigger these symptoms but is not the only cause.

What is clitorodynia?

Clitorodynia is a form of vulvodynia in which the pain is concentrated in and around the clitoris. The area may feel sore and uncomfortable much of the time or mainly while exercising, wearing tight clothing or having sexual intercourse. In some patients, sitting for long periods of time and dealing with stress can worsen the symptoms. This condition may be a result of trauma to the clitoral area or certain systemic illnesses, but in many cases, a cause is not found for clitorodynia. Lifestyle changes such as wearing loose-fitting clothing, physical therapy and over-the-counter pain medication may help some patients. For those with severe or persistent symptoms, prescription medication, topical pain relievers and nerve block injections can be effective treatment methods for reducing pain.

What is coccydynia?

Coccydynia refers to pain and inflammation affecting the coccyx, or tailbone, which is located between the buttocks. Patients suffering from coccydynia may experience pain and/or tenderness on the tailbone that is especially pronounced when sitting. Coccydynia is usually diagnosed through a physical examination, and in some cases, imaging scans to rule out other conditions. Treatment for coccydynia includes sitting in seats with sufficient padding and over-the-counter pain medication. Persistent cases of coccydynia may require cortisone injections, or in rare instances, surgery.

How is vulvodynia treated?

Treatment for vulvodynia may or may not cure the condition, but it does help to relieve symptoms.

Careful care of the vulva, avoiding toxins, and the use of cotton underwear, toilet tissue free of bleach, lubricants free of preservatives and chemicals, and non-perfumed soaps and creams can help mitigate symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

  • Trigger point injections can be used to insert a steroid medication as well as a numbing agent into the exact points where pain is felt.
  • Topical agents, such as estrogen can be applied daily to reduce pain.
  • Physical therapy or biofeedback treatments teach muscle control and allow patients to counteract pelvic muscle spasms.
  • Pelvic nerve block may be inserted to numb the nerves in the pelvic area.

Botox injections may be used to relax spastic muscles and reduce tension pain in the region.



Patient Image Ashley F

The ladies here at Embry Women’s Health really know how to treat people! I’ve been coming here since I moved to the area four years ago, and I am never disappointed. Nurse Lockwood and Dr. Embry always make time for their patients and make sure to get to the root of any problem you may have. They also have a gorgeous office with everything you could possibly need. The atmosphere is very cozy and calming and does not feel like a doctors office at all. My only suggestion to visitors is to book your appointments ASAP as they go quickly, and I get why! Sometimes when I have come here, I end up waiting a bit as they do tend to give that full attention and care to each patient, so it’s worth the wait. I just wish they could be my nurse/doctor for EVERYTHING 🙁

5 Stars – Yelp – 06/03/2018

Patient Image Jennifer W

I have never had such a positive experience at a healthcare facility, not that I’ve had particularly negative ones, but I was pleasantly surprised the time Barbara Lockwood, NP took with me. She is very easy to talk to and made me feel comfortable during my visit. I’m so glad I found this practice!

5 Stars – Yelp – 12/29/2017


This was my first visit at this office and it was so much better then a visit I’ve had at a different gynecologist. The ladies were genuinely friendly and helpful and all very knowledgeable. They make you feel comfortable and safe. It’s so hard to find a gynecologist that fits your needs and I’m very happy to say I found mine.

5 Stars – Yelp – 4/10/2018



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Words from our patients

JoEllen is AMAZING! Not only is she professional- she makes your whole experience comfortable. If you’re looking for a professional that never judges your situation and treats you very well- I would definitely recommend this office!

5 Stars – Yelp

Patient Image Yelp Layna HLayna H., Yelp

It is refreshing to meet a practitioner who sees the whole patient and not just a series of symptoms. JoEllen is willing to spend the time to ask questions and really listen to the responses. I have seen JoEllen several times and I have always appreciated how much time she spends with each appointment and her pragmatic approach with solutions.  I feel like my health drives the appointment and not the schedule. Finding JoEllen’s practice was like finding a needle in a haystack, a caring practitioner who encourages patients to listen to their bodies and to be their own best advocate.

5 Stars – 10/11/2018

Patient Image Kathy NKathy N., Yelp

Friendly staff. JoEllen is incredibly kind, patient and answers all of my questions whenever I see her. I don’t feel like I am being rushed when I am there, it is very nice.

5 Stars – 10/4/2018

Patient Image Ashley DAshley D., Yelp

I went in as a new patient just for an annual exam and Dr. Barbara Lockwood was so professional, knowledgeable, and friendly. She made sure to answer any and every question I had and she made sure I understood everything I needed to know. I have been to some offices in the past where you feel judged but she was so kind and made me feel so comfortable talking to her! I will be moving away soon but I might just have to make the drive back to see her next year!

5 Stars – 10/4/2018

Patient Image Shana EShana E., Yelp

“I started seeing Joellen earlier this year and I have had nothing but good experiences every time I have gone back. She is very down to earth and listens to any concerns. I would highly recommend Embry Womens Health.”

5 stars – 09/28/2018

Patient Image Jeannie DJeannie D., Yelp