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How Osteoarthritis Can Affect Your Sexual Health

Don't Ignore Sexual Health Because of Osteoarthritis Pain


Updated April 03, 2013

When you think of osteoarthritis, you think of physical pain -- joints that hurt on a daily basis. But osteoarthritis is more than just physical pain. The disease can affect your mental and emotional well-being, social life, and sexual life. Your sexual health is an important part of living well.

When osteoarthritis interferes with sexual expression, it is so easy to just let it be that way. But that would be cheating yourself. To improve the situation, identify what exactly causes problems for you in terms of sexual expression. Then look for solutions.

Problems Due to Osteoarthritis That Affect Sexual Health

The severity of your osteoarthritis determines what will be problematic for you. Potential problems affecting sexual health include:

Then the problems begin to mount -- you feel unattractive, unsexy, and, undesirable. You may have decreased sensations and heightened sensitivity to touch. Limited range of motion and less endurance will make you just want to forget about it. But promise yourself right now that you won't avoid sexual problems caused by osteoarthritis -- you will deal with it.

Here's What You Should Do

Try to overcome every osteoarthritis-caused problem. If losing weight or getting a great haircut would improve your self-esteem, go for it. If you have fear about discomfort during sex, discuss this with your partner and even talk to your doctor. Here's what else you can do:

  • Have sex at whatever time of day is most comfortable for you.
  • Plan a nap before sex.
  • Stay warm -- use hot showers, electric blankets, and heating pads.
  • Take pain medication about a half hour before you plan to have sex.
  • Massage each other to warm-up and relax muscles and joints.
  • Add extra pillows to support your joints.
  • Pace your activities in preparation for a night of romance.

The Bottom Line

Many articles on this subject will advise you to, first and foremost, be honest and have good communication with your spouse or partner. That is definitely important, but don't neglect yourself in the process. The American College of Rheumatology offers wonderful advice -- "Attitude is everything. Rather than setting intercourse as the goal, strive for emotional and physical closeness." I think you will be pleasantly surprised if you do that.


Sex and Arthritis. American College of Rheumatology. March 2007. By Amye Leong.

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