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Chronic Pain: Stop it from Sucking the Fun Out of Your Sex Life

Chronic Pain: Stop it from Sucking the Fun Out of Your Sex Life
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Though chronic pain has become a more medically-recognized condition, whether as a complication of another diagnosis or an unexplained phenomenon existing by itself, one frontier remains: How do people with chronic pain and their partners maintain a healthy, exciting sex life?

  Do Ask, And Do Tell!

Rule #1 of any relationship should be honesty, but this goes double for intimate situations involving people with chronic pain. If your partner has a chronic pain condition you’ve heard of, remember that everyone’s experience of pain is unique. You need to ask about your specific partner’s experience of pain and what specific triggers you can avoid when you’re between the sheets. Similarly, if you have chronic pain, your chances of enjoying some pain-free nookie increase dramatically when you can articulate what you know about your condition.

Since chronic pain is hard even for doctors to pinpoint, you can expect that no matter how thorough your conversation is, it can’t cover everything, but discussing what you can beforehand can help hugely in the moment. For example, I’m extra flexible, which is great fun in bed — but my hips and back can seize up or go out if you look at them sideways. I explain this to my partners and tell them that if it happens, I will yell “HIPS!” and they should stop everything, without trying to move me even if I’m in a funny position. And then, of course, I give them a wink and a nod and explain that if I shout anything that isn’t “HIPS!” they should absolutely keep going, heh heh. (There’s no reason why The Pain Talk can’t be foreplay. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.)

  Communicating When Bodies Don’t

It’s hard sometimes to know if pain will derail a date. On Tuesday, I might be able to put my ankle behind my head, and on Wednesday, getting out of the car can be an ordeal. The cuffs used to spread-eagle me on the bed might feel sexy and comfortable when they go on, and five minutes later my back will stage a full-on revolt — or worse, my back will give me the “just a warning, I’m about to make your life a living hell” twinge and I’ll ignore it because whips and chains and mouths are a whole lot more fun to concentrate on.

No amount of communication can prevent every flare-up, but simple check-ins from time to time between partners can go a long way. While it might break the mood to ask or be asked “How is your chronic pain with what I just did?” (well, unless you’re into medical scenes...), checking in doesn’t have to be that explicit. My household deals with a variety of chronic pain complaints, and over time we’ve come to learn one another’s signals. We more or less operate under the “if you see something, say something” rule (or maybe I just think about it that way because Big Brother is a hot fantasy) — if someone stiffens up in a funny way, or makes an unusual noise, or a limb that often causes pain is in an awkward position, that’s cause to ask a question in a non-invasive way. If you’ve laid the groundwork for communication, simply asking “Is it good?” or “You okay?” or “how’s that arm?” should be enough to bring a partner’s attention to the potential problem without bringing the lovin’ to a screeching halt.

  Helping Hands

There are a million wedges, pillows, vibrators, and toys on the market that can make sex a more pain-free experience, and as long as they’re used in conjunction with communication instead of as a weak replacement, they’re fantastic! Here are a few to look into.

Wedge pillows made specifically for sex help take stress off joints and muscle groups. (Stacked pillows will do in a pinch, but be careful not to fall over!)

A body pillow can turn spoon-style sex into a delightfully cozy experience.

Wrist cuffs made for suspension, which take the stress off the delicate bones of the wrist, can be used in “normal” (heh) bondage situations with the same benefits, and nearly every restraint can now be purchased with padding or extra-wide for happier joints.

A blanket over the top half of the body can keep someone with temperature sensitivity warm while you’re busy with their bottom half.

Many dildos are available extra-long or with curved handles to help reach your best bits without stressing shoulders.

Most lubricants are available in pump bottles for stiff hands and fingers.

Heat packs, mentholated rubs, Epsom salt baths, and other common treatments for pain can be sexed up with a little imagination. Creativity is pain’s enemy — go for it!

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Comments

very nice!

12/05/2011

Chronic pain does dictate ones sex life. I suffer from chronic pain, and the meds that they have me on tend to make me sleepy. I commend my man for standing by me with all that has gone on in my life the last two years. I can defiantely say the first and formost that he has proved that he is my friend and then my lover and partner. He has been patient with me and the nights that I cant perform, or do much. I have gone and done things and had sex with him even though my pain level was high. He fialy told me that if my pain is high that I dont need to pleasure him just to make him happy. He doesnt want to see me hurting and would rather have the pleasure felt between the two of us all the time. You have to know when is enought for your body, rest and do the things you need to. For we are only given one body do what we need to maintain it and keep it so we can explore and keep getting pleasure that we want and to deliver to our partner as well. We have tried different places, and try injeneering anything that we can to keep the pain down and be able to enjoy sex more often .

01/05/2012

I have fibromyalgia. It's horrible when you have some form of chronic pain and are injured at work. When you report the injury but keep on going that a mark against you case if it turns out to be L&I related. There are no safety nets to fall back on if you have a history of pain and have to some how convince employers and their insurence that you are actually injured and no it's not just your condition acting up.

02/11/2012
JMR76  

I have very bad fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue,but it doesn't seem to affect me enjoying sex. The endorphin-es I get during pretty much overpower whatever pain I am feeling. I certainly pay for it later but it is worth it for me. The last time I had sex it was for an hour and vigorous. I had a very painful tight knot in my back by my shoulder blade. My partner massaged it and after a few days it got better. I think having a supportive and comforting partner in addition to rest and home treatment (hot bath,etc.) can make a difference.

That all being said,I know this is just my own personal experience and for some people this is not true or works for them.

08/22/2013

Not everybody is created equal. That is, we each face unique challenges in life, some more difficult to overcome than others. From disability to dysfunction to emotional disconnection, the impediments to enjoying sex are many and varied. The Sexual Challenges Project aims to examine, discuss and educate our readers about these issues that some, if not all of us must overcome to achieve a fulfilling and satisfying sex life.

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