Fear-avoidance and Pelvic Floor Muscle Function are Associated With Pain Intensity in Women With Vulvodynia

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Abstract

Objective:

To investigate the association between fear-avoidance variables, pelvic floor muscle (PFM) function, pain intensity in women with provoked vestibulodynia (PVD), as well as the moderator effect of partner support.

Materials and Methods:

A sample of 173 women diagnosed with PVD participated in the study. Fear-avoidance variables were assessed with validated self-administered questionnaires: pain catastrophizing (Pain Catastrophizing Scale), pain-related fear (Pain Anxiety Symptoms Scale), and partner support (Partner Support Questionnaire). Pain intensity was evaluated using a numerical rating scale. PFM function, including maximal strength, speed of contraction, flexibility, and muscle tone, was evaluated with a dynamometric speculum.

Results:

Pain catastrophizing was significantly associated with pain intensity (β=0.310, P<0.001), partner support (β=0.194, P=0.004), and PFM flexibility (β=−0.255, P<0.001). Fear-avoidance, PFM variables, and partner support explained 28.3% of the variance in pain during intercourse (P<0.001). The addition of PFM was of particular interest as it explained a significant addition of 9% of the variance in pain intensity. Partner support was found to moderate the association between pain intensity and catastrophizing. Among women with high partner support, catastrophizing was not significantly related to pain (b=0.150, P=0.142). When partner support was low, catastrophizing was significantly related to pain (b=0.068, P<0.001).

Discussion:

Findings of this study support that the symptomatology of PVD can be explained partly by fear-avoidance variables and PFM function. This study supports the significant role of PFM function and its importance in the pathophysiology of PVD. It also sheds light on the role of partner support and its moderating effect on pain catastrophizing.

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