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Sex, Aging, and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Is it possible to maintain intimacy and a good sex life through RA and menopause? Yes. Here’s how.

Tips for Reducing Pain During Sex

New positions and methods of stimulation can ease pain and may wake up a tired sex life, too. To ease pain during intercourse, try kneeling on a pillow with your upper body resting on a chair, and your partner entering from behind. Lying on your side may also work well for some couples.

Try new forms of stimulation to get things going. A warm bath or shower together can be sensual and soothing. Massage, fondling, and stroking may get you in the mood if you find it difficult to get aroused. So can sexual fantasies. For some women, that may even be enough sometimes, and you can bring your partner to a climax in other ways.

Planning for sex is a popular strategy for people with RA. It lets you pursue intimacy during a time of day when you’re generally free of pain and fatigue. You can also schedule your pain-relief medication so it kicks in then.

Strategies such as these may make intimacy more pleasurable. And in turn, enjoying sex can take you out of your RA pain.

Reducing Fatigue

Menopause can increase fatigue, which you may already be feeling thanks to your rheumatoid arthritis. If that’s the case, the only thing you may want to do in bed is sleep. Menopause can also lead to insomnia, another problem for some women with RA.

“If you feel particularly fatigued, you should work with your doctor to make sure your RA is being controlled as best as possible with various medications,” Russell says. “And then you really need to listen to your body. It’s OK to take a nap in the day if you’re tired or need a rest, and you should try to get a good night’s sleep.”

But getting your body moving also helps with sleep. “A regular exercise program should be prescribed for insomnia since it has multiple benefits besides aiding sleep,” Wei says.

“A woman with RA can either work with her doctor or a physical therapist to work out a good exercise program for her, based on her pain areas or deformities,” Russell says. “And of course, weight-bearing exercise is also very important for osteoporosis, which is already a risk for people with RA.” Just don’t work out right before bedtime or it may keep you awake.

Other tips: Wei suggests trying melatonin supplements, which may help with sleep, or talking to your doctor about a mild prescription sedative.

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