Living with Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain and Sex


Chronic pain can interfere with intimacy in a relationship. For many people with chronic pain, their sex lives become less of a priority. However, an active sex life not only promotes a healthy relationship, it can also decrease pain. Achieving orgasm can boost pain thresholds by more than 100 percent, and self-stimulation can increase pain thresholds by 75 percent.

Causes of decline in sex

Pain reduces libido in several ways. The physical act of sex is simply painful for some people in chronic pain. Also, people with high levels of pain release significant amounts of epinephrine, which constricts blood vessels and makes it difficult for men to get and maintain an erection; therefore, controlling pain is crucial for treating erectile dysfunction. Some pain medications may also contribute to lack of sexual arousal and response. Also, pain can cause a person to become sedentary, which can lead to weight gain causing body-image issues. The less active individuals are, the less likely they are to engage in sexual activity.

Treatment options

Opioids are useful for treating pain, but they also suppress the adrenal axis, which prevents sex hormones from being manufactured. This makes non-narcotic treatments desirable, such as yoga, meditation, massage, diet, exercise and acupuncture. A combination of alternative and conventional medications is often effective. Also, hormone replacement therapy increases testosterone which reduces erectile dysfunction. Some antidepressants may also help increase sexual desire. Discussing sexual needs, boundaries and desires together with a partner increases trust and initiates intimacy. A therapist can also help with tips for returning to a healthy sex life.

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