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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Arthritis Pain, Intimacy, and Sex

3. Try Creative and Comfortable Positions

Many people with arthritis have problems with mobility. This can make some sexual positions difficult or impossible, especially if you have arthritis in the hips, knees, or spine. “So often people get stuck in one way of having sex, and when that’s not possible, they give up,” says Resh. “But it shouldn’t mean an end to sex. Instead, think of it as a reason to have fun experimenting with different sexual positions.”

Try to talk openly with your partner about what positions feel good and what hurts. If talking is too difficult, write each other notes about what you’d like to try. Or use your hands and eyes to guide the way. “There are many tasteful books that can help you find different positions that might work for you,” says Resh. Looking through a book together can be an exciting way to broach the topic.

You can also experiment with new ways to touch. For example, if your hands are affected by arthritis, try touching your partner lightly with the back of your hand, or use a feather or scarf.

If your joints are especially painful or difficult to move, pillows or other props can help provide support. And sexual enhancement tools, such as vibrators and lubricants, can also play a role in having enjoyable sex with your partner. “Vibrators can be very helpful for those who have arthritis in the hands,” says Resh. “And it can be exciting to play with these tools together.”

4. Explore New Ways to Connect

It’s important to remember that intimacy is not just about intercourse or having an orgasm. “The most important part of sex is the skin-to-skin and soul-to-soul contact with your partner, and your willingness to connect on an intimate level with that person,” says Resh. “Giving someone your undivided attention is one of the sexiest things you can do.”

If intercourse isn’t possible, explore other ways of being intimate. “Your sexual relationship doesn’t need to end just because intercourse does,” says Resh. “Look for other ways to connect physically, and take your time and have fun with it. For example, a lot of long-term couples stop making out after many years together,” says Resh. “Resurrecting that may be exciting.”

Another idea is to use massage as a form of foreplay. “Ask your partner to give you a massage or rub the areas of your body that hurt,” says Resh. “This can be a great way to start touching.”

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