Living with Chronic Pain

Sexual Intimacy and Chronic Pain

Source: WebMD, Mayo Clinic

Intimacy is an important part of romantic relationships. For individuals with chronic pain, sexual intimacy can be a challenge. They may worry that sexual intercourse will worsen pain. They may also experience medication side effects that inhibit or reduce libido, arousal, or orgasm. However, there are ways to alleviate these concerns.

Tips for maintaining sexual intimacy while living with chronic pain include the following:

  • Communicate. Sharing feelings and concerns with a partner can help alleviate fears. Communication can also help identify potential solutions for intimacy or sexual concerns.
  • Plan ahead. Sex does not have to be spontaneous. A couple can plan to have sex at a time of day when the individual’s pain levels are low and energy levels are high. Taking pain medication in advance so that it takes effect when needed can also help.
  • Use non-sexual forms of touch. Sexual intercourse is not the only way to share intimacy. Gentle touching, such as massaging, kissing, or cuddling, are also forms of intimacy.
  • Experiment with different sexual positions. If certain positions cause or worsen pain, a couple can experiment and find other positions that are comfortable for both of them.
  • Try other forms of sexual contact. Self-stimulation and oral sex are alternative ways to fulfill sexual needs.
  • Use a vibrator or lubricant. A vibrator can create pleasure without using too much energy. Lubricants can help prevent or reduce pain related to intercourse.

If a couple experiences difficulty with sexual intimacy, speaking with a counselor or sex therapist can help.

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