Chronic pain can lead to sexual problems. When you are in pain, the last thing you probably want to do is be intimate with your partner. But it is important to remain close to your loved one. A healthy, intimate relationship can positively affect all aspects of your life.
As with other subjective experiences, such as love, fear, or anger, there's no way to objectively measure pain. We asked Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of the Pain Management Division and associate professor of anesthesia at Stanford University School of Medicine, to explain the unpleasant sensation we all feel in different ways.
Fear of rejection by a partner: It is common for people with chronic pain to feel that a partner is no longer interested. You may wonder if a partner is less attracted to you because you are in pain. Share your feelings and fears with your partner and listen to your partner's concerns.
Fear of pain associated with sex: It is natural to worry that sexual intercourse will cause you more physical pain. You can address this concern by experimenting with different positions that are more comfortable.
Fear of failure to perform: Pain, depression, alcohol and medications all can affect sexual performance or the ability to get aroused or have an orgasm. Sometimes, failure to perform is caused by stress and anxiety. In many cases, patience and understanding can help in overcoming performance problems. Many medications can reduce your sexual ability and/or cause impotence. If you suspect a medication may be affecting your sexual performance, don't stop taking the drug without first consulting your health care provider.
If intercourse is undesirable, there are other ways to be aroused, including:
Touching: Explore your partner's body through touch. This may include cuddling, fondling, stroking, massaging and kissing. Touch increases feelings of intimacy.
Self-stimulation:Masturbation is a normal and healthy way to fulfill your sexual needs.
Oral sex: This form of contact may be an alternative or supplement to traditional intercourse.
You may also want to experiment with having sex at different times of the day or in different positions. If you have more pain in the evening, having sex earlier in the day might help. Try different positions -- some may feel better than others. You may also want to use lubricants when there is a lack of natural lubrication. Lubricants can ease or prevent pain associated with sexual contact.