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Osteoarthritis Health Center

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Arthritis Pain, Intimacy, and Sex

By Ellen Greenlaw
WebMD Feature

If you have arthritis, there are plenty of reasons why you might not feel like having sex. Painful or stiff joints and limited mobility may make sex seem more like a chore than a pleasure. You may feel self conscious about changes in your body. Or you may simply feel too fatigued at the end of the day to think about anything more than getting a good night’s sleep.

But having arthritis doesn’t have to mean an end to your sex life. Sex is an important part of our identity. It lets us connect more intimately with our partner and helps us feel good about ourselves -- physically and emotionally. With a little bit of patience, good communication, and some creativity, you can continue to have an active and pleasurable sex life, even with arthritis. Arthritis experts suggest these five ways to improve intimacy.

Recommended Related to Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis Prevention

By age 65, more than half of us will have X-ray evidence of osteoarthritis, a disease in which the cartilage that covers the ends of the bones at the joints breaks down and bony overgrowth occurs. For many, the result is stiffness and pain in the joint. Although osteoarthritis (or OA) is more common as we age, it is not an inevitable part of aging. As researchers work to understand the causes of osteoarthritis, they are able to offer advice to help prevent the disease or its progression and lessen...

Read the Osteoarthritis Prevention article > >

1. Plan and Make a Date

If you’re feeling tired and sore at the end of the day, it’s probably not the best time to have sex. Instead, make a date to be intimate when you’re feeling your best. For many people with arthritis, this may be in the late morning or afternoon. Choose whatever time of day is best for you.

You can also plan to help make sure you’re feeling as well rested and pain free as possible. For example, you might take a hot shower or bath before sex to ease joint pain and stiffness. Taking your medication about 30 minutes before sexual activity may also help make the experience more pleasurable.

2. Create a Sexy Space

For many people, sex happens only in the bedroom. But it can be exciting to create a space outside of your bedroom for sex. “Bedrooms aren’t always the sexiest places,” says Evelyn Resh, CNM. Resh is a certified sexuality counselor in private practice in western Massachusetts. “Because the bed is most often a place for refuge and rest, it can be hard to get in the mood when you’re in a place you associate with sleep.”

Instead, Resh suggests creating a “love shack” within your home. You can decorate it with fabrics and pillows that appeal to you. If you don’t have an extra room, use a guest room or convert a space in your living room or study. Or, experiment with having sex in different rooms. You may find that it offers an exciting change of pace.

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