Living with Chronic Pain

5 Tips to Improve Sexual Intimacy When Living With Chronic Pain


A healthy sex life promotes both physical and mental well-being; however, for individuals with chronic pain, sexual intimacy can be a challenge. Unfortunately, physical pain, fatigue, fear of failure to perform (due to side effects of medications), or chronic pain-related emotional issues can result in an unfulfilling sex life. However, implementing the following tips can improve sexual intimacy between individuals with chronic pain and their partners.

  1. Experiment with different positions. Choose positions that avoid putting pressure on painful areas of the body. For individuals with chronic low back pain, certain positions that limit back flexion and extension have proven to be most comfortable. If needed, use pillows to support painful areas.
  2. Try changing the time or place. If pain levels are highest at night, have sexual intercourse in the morning or vice versa. Also, if a bed proves to be an uncomfortable location for sexual activity, experiment in other places, such as a shower, bathtub or hot tub.
  3. Be prepared. When possible, take steps to reduce pain before sexual activity, such as taking pain medication, applying heat, stretching, or having a partner massage painful areas.
  4. Explore alternate ways of expressing sexual intimacy. If intercourse is too painful due to pelvic pain or other conditions, intimacy can be shared in numerous ways, including massage, masturbation, oral sex, or sex-toy play.
  5. Seek assistance from a counselor or sex therapist. If sexual intimacy continues to be a challenge, consulting a professional therapist may help. Cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be especially helpful.

With time, patience, and some experimentation, individuals with chronic pain and their partners can enjoy a healthy sex life.

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