A type of electrical nerve stimulation may help women suffering from vaginal pain triggered by intercourse, tampon use, bike riding and wearing tight clothing, a study finds.

Italian researchers say transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is a safe and effective way to treat a condition called vestibulodynia, described as a burning of pain at the opening of the vagina. The condition has been tied to chronic yeast infections, injury, emotional factors and depression, and skin diseases such as allergic dermatitis, but an exact cause is unknown.

The researchers, led by Dr. Filippo Murina, of V. Buzzi Hospital in Milan, tested both real and fake TENS treatments on 40 women with vestibulodynia. TENS is an electronic device that produces electrical currents used to stimulate nerves through unbroken skin. It is used widely to treat pain, however some in the medical community are skeptical of its effectiveness.

The women received the treatments twice a week for 20 sessions, according to the study published in the August issue of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The amount of pain suffered by the women was assessed before and right after treatment, as well as three months after treatment. Researchers say the TENS group experienced a reduction in pain and improved sexual function. However, they relapsed after three months, so follow-up therapy is needed, the study said.

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