Living with Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain and Sexual Dysfunction


Individuals with chronic pain are more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than those without chronic pain. This is due to several factors, including the pain itself and medication side effects.

The pain itself

Certain types of chronic pain, such as back pain and pelvic pain, can reduce sexual satisfaction because of the pain itself. Some sexual intercourse positions may be difficult for individuals with back pain, and sexual contact or intercourse may worsen pain or even be impossible for individuals with pelvic pain.

Medication side effects

Medications for chronic pain can also contribute to sexual dysfunction. For example, some men who take certain pain relievers for an extended period may have low levels of testosterone, which can contribute to erectile dysfunction. Some antidepressants that are used to treat chronic pain can dampen arousal and make it more difficult or even impossible to reach orgasm.

Other factors

Chronic pain can also reduce energy levels, and lack of energy can contribute to sexual dysfunction. Sexual satisfaction can also be negatively impacted by low self-esteem or a negative body image that may develop from living with chronic pain.

The bottom line

Sexual dysfunction related to chronic pain can often be successfully managed. Consulting a health care provider about ways to reduce pain during intercourse or to reduce medication side effects that affect libido or sexual satisfaction can help. Individuals or couples can also consult a counselor or sex therapist.

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