When rheumatoid arthritis flares up, sex may be the last thing on your mind. But when you feel better, it's a good time to put a little sizzle back in your relationship. Besides the obvious reasons -- you care for your partner, you miss being sexually intimate -- there could be a perk. Sex is a painkiller, thanks to your body’s feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and those effects can last for hours.
Do and your partner talk about it?
Being able to talk about your RA and how it affects intimacy helps you both have a satisfying sex life. If you are nervous about talking, write your partner a letter. Share what feels good and what hurts. If you make the first move on good days, your partner may be more understanding on the days you feel unwell.
Do you rush romance?
Take time to enjoy leisurely foreplay. Use gentle massage to relax muscles and joints. And plan for good sex. For instance, if you know you feel in the mood during the afternoon, make a date for some private time with your partner at home. Take pain medication -- and perhaps a nap -- at least 30 minutes before sex so you are more comfortable and energized.
Do you try different positions or props?
Get creative so you don’t stress your painful joints. Use your imagination here. Let go of your traditional sexual position if it hurts.
Also, try using props like pillows or cushions to support your hips, shoulders, neck, or back. Or add a vibrator for stimulation during foreplay. Many women have vaginal dryness as they get older. It's particularly a problem if you have Sjogren's syndrome, a condition often seen with RA. If you have that, try vaginal lubricants, vaginal moisturizers, or vaginal estrogen creams.
Have you ever tried warming up together?
Warm showers or baths can ease joint stiffness. So use them to enhance sex. Take a bath together as part of foreplay. Or gently wash each other with an aromatic body wash in a warm shower. You might also try an electric blanket on your bed to make it cozy.
If you have sexual problems, talk to your doctor. You may want to get a referral to a sex therapist who has experience helping people with RA.