Comparing Vestibule Examination Techniques: Light Touch, Serial Forces, and the Lidocaine Test

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Objective The purpose of this study was to compare techniques and pain scales that assess tenderness in the vulvar vestibule in provoked vestibulodynia, using the cotton swab test and a vulvalgesiometer, and assess topical lidocaine solution with each. Materials and Methods This randomized study at a specialty vulvar clinic evaluated tender vestibules of reproductive-aged women with vestibulodynia using light rolling cotton swab touch at 6 sites and evaluated the vulvalgesiometer at 2 sites, randomizing the order of the initial tool. Participants reported pain using the Numerical Rating Scale 0-10 and the Verbal Pain Scale 0-3. With the vulvalgesiometer, the pain tolerance threshold was measured using forces of 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, and 300 g. After both initial tests, lidocaine 4% topical solution was applied for 3 minutes, and the swab test and vulvalgesiometer were repeated in the order initially performed, constituting the lidocaine test. Data analysis used t tests, Fisher exact tests, Wilcoxon signed rank tests, and Spearman rank correlation. Results Sixteen patients completed the study, 8 starting with each instrument. Light swab touch evoked significant pain, and lidocaine reduced pain to zero or mild levels. The pain threshold was 25 g, and only 38% could tolerate testing past 100 g without lidocaine. The Verbal Pain Scale correlated well with the Numerical Rating Scale. Conclusions Light rolling cotton swab touch using the 4-item verbal scale can map vestibulodynia tenderness that can be extinguished by lidocaine, consistent with distinguishing a mucosal condition. Forces by vulvalgesiometer of greater than 100-200 g may evoke pain other than mucosal allodynia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)236-242
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of lower genital tract disease
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021


  • lidocaine test
  • localized provoked vulvodynia
  • pain measurement
  • vestibulodynia
  • vulvalgesiometer
  • vulvodynia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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