Problems and Limitations Can Interfere With Sex
Sexuality is a pleasurable activity shared by partners as an expression of love and intimacy. Ideally, a healthy and satisfying sex life solidifies the union between partners. There are certain factors which can however interfere with deriving pleasure and satisfaction from sex. Having a chronic disease, such as arthritis, can complicate sexuality by introducing other factors into the equation including:
These factors can cause difficulties in a sexual relationship but it is important to realize the difficulties can be overcome.
Pain and Pleasure
Pain and pleasure are so contrary to each other it may seem unimaginable to consider them together. Pain is an intruder into the daily lives of arthritis sufferers and can interfere with sexual desire. Factors that can be self-limiting include:
- the fear of movement
- increased pain
Sex should be regarded as a release for the pain though, not something which has hurtful consequences. With reduced expectations, pleasure from sex is achievable even in spite of a painful illness. By reduced expectations, we understand that aggressive sex is likely unrealistic. Gentle, tender, and creative sexual intercourse can actually be soothing and healing. Following a sexual encounter endorphins are released. Endorphins are the body's own natural painkillers and their beneficial effect can last up to a few hours. Acts of intimacy are vital, including:
- gentle touching
Whatever provokes sensations of pleasure while diminishing sensations of pain are powerful acts of sexuality and intimacy. Visual stimulation can be helpful especially since the mind is said to be the most powerful sexual organ.
Preparation for Lovemaking
Some things can be done ahead of time in preparation for a sexual encounter. Though this contradicts the theory that sex must be spontaneous, such planning can be helpful for reducing pain and making the encounter more enjoyable.
- Plan sex for the time of day you generally feel best.
- Take medications to allow the peak of the dose to occur during sex.
- Avoid extra activity which might increase your level of fatigue.
- Do gentle exercises to relax and to improve your range of motion.
- Take a warm bath or shower to soothe joints and muscles.
- Try new positions which might alleviate pain during sex.
Sex can still be spontaneous at times. During those occasions you find yourself feeling better, seize the opportunity for physical, sexual gratification.
Drug Side Effects
Many medications exist for the treatment of arthritis. Some medications which are taken to treat arthritis and relieve pain can have side effects which affect sexual desire and performance. Among these side effects are:
- weight gain
A change in medication or in the dosage schedule may make a difference so do not assume you must live with the undesirable effects.
Joint Replacement Surgery
Joint replacement surgery may also be an option for people with severely damaged and limited joints. Increased range of motion is often achieved following joint replacement.
Guide to Intimacy With Arthritis From Arthritis Foundation
Arthritis Today magazine consulted a group of experts who would honestly and sensitively answer the most commonly asked questions. You can order a free brochure from the Arthritis Foundation, 835.5480AI Guide to Intimacy. "Experts give forthright and helpful advice for your practical and emotional sexual concerns. Includes position modifications."