Pain Can Interfere With Touching
It had been a particularly difficult day coping with the pain of her arthritis. She looked at her husband and wanted to be comforted by him. Realizing this, he reached over to envelop her in his arms and snuggle. But, as he did this, she cringed. There was a contradiction in her action: She wanted to be touched, yet it hurt even more to be touched.
The Power of Touch
Touch Is Important
The touch of someone's hand, the closeness of an embrace, and the connected feeling of personal contact signify caring and comfort. Feelings of security, safety, and easiness are amplified, along with other good feelings evoked by the power of touch.
Touching builds closeness, fosters communication, and nurtures intimacy. Touching gives a person the sense of being cared about and cared for. Being touched or snuggled makes a person psychologically feel worthy and physically feel soothed.
Power of Pets
Not only is the power of touch derived from human contact, but also from pets. The unconditional love a pet gives to its master is unparalleled. When a cat or dog climbs in bed and presses tightly against his master the message is conveyed that the love is reciprocal. They need you and you need them.
Dealing With Chronic Pain
Coping with the chronic pain of arthritis can interfere greatly with being touched and snuggled. Though the woman in our example is longing to be comforted by her husband, the reality is her body is wracked with pain from her arthritis and anything touching her will make it worse. Even light pressure from the touch of a hand is discomforting. Fearing this is what made her cringe. She truly does desire to be held and comforted, yet at the same time, reacted with fear of more pain.
Unless her husband is able to understand her reaction, he may feel rejected. He needs to realize why she cringed. To be sure he doesn't feel rebuffed, she must communicate the reality of her physical pain. With open communication, it is possible to work towards solutions.
Solutions to the Problem
When searching for solutions, communication is the first step. Anything that impairs communication between partners is not a viable solution. For example, separate bedrooms have been suggested so that partners can have their own space. However, separate bedrooms promote separateness, not communication.
Being Creative / Adaptation Is Key
A comfortable bed and supportive pillows are very helpful. If partners differ in opinion on mattress firmness or type of pillow, the workable solution is to compromise. The solution might require you to be creative such as pushing two twin beds together, or a twin and a double bed together. This would allow each person their preference, yet keep the two people together.
Need for Intimacy
People with arthritis have limitations and restricted movements. They are bound by pain and physical discomfort, yet arthritis does not destroy their need for intimacy.
- Communicate your pain level to your partner by rating your pain.
- Explain clearly what you need and what you can give on any given day.
- Do something each day to feel the soothing power of touch and to feed the bond between you -- no matter how big or how small, no matter how long or how short the duration.