Sex and intimacy can be a sensitive subject for many people, and having any form of arthritis can add more complexities and inhibitions to your intimate relationship.

We know from your feedback that this is a topic of interest, and many people living with arthritis have many questions about how sex and intimacy can impact their arthritis, and vice-versa.

There may be physical reasons and emotional factors, including stress that can impact all aspects of the relationship, including your sex life.

Living with arthritis may affect your mood and self-esteem, reduce your enjoyment of sex and other activities and interests that you share with a partner, mainly because of pain and fatigue issues. The physical changes that can be part of arthritis may affect your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Here are some helpful tips to improve your intimacy and hopefully help you have better sex:

  1. Communicate with your partner – your issues and concerns so you can work at overcoming problems together – this helps you connect and improve your sex life. Emotional intimacy, including trust, openness and honesty is an important part of a relationship. 
  1. Plan ahead – what time of day are you generally less stiff and sore? Time pain medication for an hour or so before sex and pace yourself during the day to save energy. A warm bath or shower before sex may help your comfort levels and using a heating pad or electric blanket can help too. Use massage for relaxing foreplay, and pillows and rolled-up towels to support sore joints. 
  1. Keep fit and stay fit – staying active is important for developing and maintaining muscle strength and joint mobility. It’s also helpful for managing fatigue and stress, which helps to maintain and support enjoyable sexual activity. 
  1. Get creative – you may need to try different positions. You and your partner should practise patience and understanding, but most importantly, keep your sense of humour and try to have fun.

What if I am not in a relationship?

Having arthritis may mean you lose your self-confidence about having new relationships; however, most relationships depend on various shared connections and interests rather than just physical intimacy. Keep up your social contacts and activities you enjoy, and perhaps have a go at new activities that are manageable and enjoyable for you.

Will my arthritis medications affect my sex life?

Most drugs used to treat arthritis are not likely to affect your sex life. However, steroids can sometimes reduce sexual desire or cause temporary impotence. Discuss your medications with your Doctors if you have any concerns. Ask your Doctor if any of your medications affect the contraceptive pill.

Will my joint replacement affect my sex life?

Following a hip replacement, speak to your health team about certain movements as there may be a risk of dislocating the new joint, these could include not bending the legs up, no kneeling for six weeks after surgery, and keeping your hips straight.

Following a knee replacement there would definitely be no kneeling for six weeks. Always check with your health team for any specific post-surgery instructions.

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