Don't Let Arthritis Spoil Your Sex Life

IMAGE If you have arthritis, you may be able to lessen the pain and step up the pleasure. Annette, a vibrant 32-year-old, has always enjoyed sex. Now that she has been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), she appreciates and enjoys sex even more. Annette is candid about her fears, though, that someday the pain of RA will prevent her from experiencing sexual pleasure. RA stimulates inflammation in the lining of the joints and can eventually cause deterioration of the bone and cartilage. RA can cause pain, stiffness, fatigue and restricted movement all of which can be detrimental to romance and passion.

The Sexual Effects of Arthritis

Annette is realistic in her concerns. Although her RA can be controlled with medications, exercise, and rest, there may be days when sexual or physical activity will be more difficult for her. Many women with RA experienced a decreased desire for sex after its onset. Some women lost their full range of knee and hip movement, which prevented them from assuming familiar intercourse positions. Other women avoided intercourse because they felt the next day would leave them tired and in pain.Sexual side effects of osteoarthritis (OA) have not been as extensively studied as RA, but many sex therapists report similar problems. Osteoarthritis, which breaks down joint cartilage, causes some of the same symptoms, such as pain and movement restriction, which may interfere with the joy of sex.

Reinventing Pleasure

Arthritis may change a person's sex life, but that change does not have to signify the end of pleasure.Part of learning to live with arthritis is being able to communicate with your partner. Changes you may have to make can open new doors in your relationship that you didn't know were closed. Both partners need to be open-minded. Some things you were doing before may not necessarily work anymore, but it doesn't mean there aren't other methods out there to be explored.

Changing Your Position

One of those changes may be in positioning during sex. Some intercourse positions can be painful for people who have arthritis. For instance, people with hip problems say that being on top can be uncomfortable, since this position demands hip movement.If you and your partner have been assuming the same sexual positions for years, it may feel uncomfortable to talk about changing positions.But if you do not feel comfortable talking about sex with your partner, not talking about it may make it worse. The bottom line is, if you're hurting, you have to let your partner know.When you and your partner are ready for sex, here are some things you can both do to make the experience more pleasurable.
  • Use pillows for support. It may help relieve joint pain.
  • Plan for a time of day when you feel your best.
  • Use water-based lubricants to help with vaginal dryness.
  • Rely on touch with massages, gels, baths, or a shower for relaxation.
You are only limited by your imagination. It may feel awkward at first, but you will get used to it. The keys to a healthy relationship are communication and understanding.

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