How to Get in the Mood When You Have RA

Medically Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on July 09, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Sex is a huge part of your relationship. It keeps you connected to your partner, and it can still be a great part of your life, even with rheumatoid arthritis.

The trick is to take a little extra care. RA can slow you down. These simple tips can help you get in the mood and make your sex life more fun.

Plan it. Great sex just happens, right? "That's not true at all," says Victoria Ruffing, RN, program manager at the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center in Baltimore.

There's nothing unsexy about planning. When you set a time for sex, you have more control and are more likely to enjoy it. Once it's on the calendar, so to speak, looking forward to it can build up your desire -- something that may have been flagging lately.

"Don't think of it as planned sex," Ruffing says. "Think of it as a date night."

Talk to your partner. Maybe you're worried about the things you can't do. Chances are, your partner mostly wants to be close to you -- physically and emotionally -- and wants to help. You just have to let him or her know. Be direct with each other about what you're feeling and what you want. If you feel too awkward to talk about it, write it down in a letter and ask for a reply, Ruffing says.

Make your bed comfortable. Add a layer of memory foam on your mattress to make it softer. Next time you're in a bedding supply store, fill your cart with throw pillows and bolsters. If you're on your back during sex, you can put one beneath your knees to take off the pressure. You can also use rolled up towels or sheets in the same way.

Have the right supplies.Rheumatoid arthritis can cause vaginal dryness that makes sex painful for women. "Lubricants can be a good friend if you have RA," Ruffing says.

Rest beforehand. A nap might not seem sexy, but it can help you feel less tired, and that can make sex better. Ruffing suggests you make a nap part of your pre-sex ritual. Once you link it with fun in the bedroom, taking a short snooze can help get you in the mood.

Save your energy in other ways before you make love. Skip heavy chores that day if you can. "When it's date night, put off your grocery shopping and other errands until the next day," says Darlene Lee, NP, a nurse practitioner and practice manager at the University of California Rheumatology Clinic in San Francisco.

Plan your medicine doses. If your pain medication takes an hour to work, take it an hour before you have sex, Ruffing says. Just be aware that some drugs, like opioid painkillers, can slow things down.

Warm up. Take a warm bath beforehand to relax and ease your aches, Ruffing says.

Don’t get hung up on how things used to be. Having RA has probably changed a lot about your life. It's probably going to change your sex life, too. So try new positions if some of your standard moves aren't comfortable anymore. Think beyond intercourse. You may need to adapt, but you don't need to give in. Use these changes as a chance to find new pleasures, Lee says.

Go easy on yourself. "People with RA tend to be their harshest critics," Lee says. "Be forgiving instead." If you plan to have sex tonight, remember that feeling close and connected can be good for you and your partner.

With or without RA, sex can be clumsy and silly sometimes. That's OK. If a new technique doesn't work, try not to get self-conscious or embarrassed. Laugh it off and try another. Sex isn't supposed to be solemn. It's supposed to be fun.

WebMD Feature



American College of Rheumatology: "Sex and Arthritis."

Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, CHT, clinical assistant professor of occupational therapy, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Conn.

Darlene Lee, NP, nurse practitioner, practice manager, rheumatology clinic, University of California, San Francisco.

Jane McCabe, MS, OTR/L, CAPS, occupational therapist, Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, Laguna Hills, Calif.

NYU Langone Medical Center: "Don't Let Arthritis Spoil Your Sex Life."

Victoria Ruffing, RN, program manager, arthritis center, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md.

© 2013 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Click to view privacy policy and trust info