Keeping The Spark In Your Sex Life With Chronic Pain

Close up of couple laughing in bed

Sex is an essential part of life and a key to any successful relationship, but chronic pain can drastically reduce how often this occurs or make a person feel less sexually desirable.

“I think it is important for patients to realize that sex is good for them and is part of the human experience,” said Hilda Hutcherson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. “I tell patients ‘you deserve a good sex life, and there are things that can be done to help you. Speak up and get answers to the questions you have, so you can continue to have a good sex life.’ ”

A lack of sex shouldn’t be an acceptable option for coping with pain symptoms. With a few simple methods, your sex life can be either as good as it was or better than ever. Here are five way to keep chronic pain from impacting your sex life.

Plan times for it: Although lovemaking can ideally be spur of the moment, sometimes chronic pain doesn’t allow for this. Identify when your energy highest levels are normally highest during the day and make time to be with your partner during these stretches.

Preparation: Take an over-the-counter or prescribed medication about thirty minutes before you have sex. Other tricks to loosen up your joints including taking a hot shower beforehand, using a heating paid or applying a non-scented topical gel. Padding your bed with extra blankets or pillows during sex can also be helpful.

Try different positions: Depending on where your pain stems from, there could be ways to work around it. For example, those with pelvic pain may find sitting or side-to-side positions to be less uncomfortable. If traditional sex in any form exacerbates your pain, consider focusing more on oral sex and mutual masturbation.

Seek professional help: Chronic pain and a resulting lack of sex can sometimes create or exacerbate other issues in both parties, including low self-confidence and low self-esteem. Speaking with a couples counselor or a therapist can help address these problems, and ultimately restore intimacy.

“A lot of times couples are avoiding even basic levels of contact, not holding hands, not kissing, not even talking,” said Geralyn Datz, PhD, a pain psychologist and behavioral medicine specialist in Hattiesburg, Miss. “Because there is often a lot of anxiety about sexual activity when you have pain, it’s helpful to learn to relax mentally and physically.”

Communicate: A lack of sex can raise uncomfortable questions and even fears, including whether there’s something wrong in the relationship or if you’re no longer sexually desirable to your partner. Not addressing these concerns simply allows them to fester.

Don’t resign yourself to a lifetime of celibacy. Communicate your concerns, questions and needs to your partner and work together to create solutions. If you find that you’re unable to do this together, consider enlisting the help of a couples counselor or another form of neutral third party.