With RA, What Can I Do to Improve My Sex Life?

It's time to put a little sizzle back in your relationship. Besides the joy of being intimate with your partner, there's an extra perk when you have rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Sex is a painkiller, thanks to your body's feel-good chemicals called endorphins, and those effects can last for hours.

Ask yourself some questions to see if you're making the most of your love life.

Do and your partner talk about it?

When you're open about your RA and how it makes you feel, it can help you and your partner have a more satisfying sex life. If you're nervous about talking about how your symptoms affect the way you want to be intimate, write your partner a letter. Share what feels good and what hurts. If you make the first move on good days, your partner will be more understanding on the days you don't feel 100%.

Do you rush romance?

Take time to enjoy foreplay. Use gentle massage to relax muscles and joints. And don't be afraid to set up some time for 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're more comfortable and energized.

Do you try different positions or props?

Get creative to avoid putting stress your painful joints. Let go of your traditional sexual position if it hurts.

Also, try 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 also 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?

You already know that warm showers or baths can help your painful joints. You can use them to enhance your sex life, too. 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.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on December 14, 2018



American College of Rheumatology: "Sex and Arthritis." 

Arthritis Care (UK): "Relationships, Intimacy, and Arthritis."  

M.E.A. McNeil, San Anselmo, Calif.; author, The First Year: Rheumatoid Arthritis: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed, De Capo, 2005.

University of Washington Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine: "Sex and Arthritis."

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