After writing about sex and disability a few weeks ago, I decided I was going to continue the conversation. You can read my other post here. Now, I'm no expert (or should I say 'sexpert'?) but I've lived with chronic pain for almost twenty years so thought I'd share some tips on having sex whilst suffering with chronic pain.
Sex is an important, fundamental part of life, and if you're putting it off due to chronic pain it can severely damage your relationship. The fear can become all-consuming and make having intercourse almost impossible. When you're in pain 24/7, you'd think sex would be the last thing on a sufferers mind. And for some it is, sometimes even the slightest touch is agony, so why bother having sex? For me it's the intimacy, the normalcy, the connection. There's also evidence that suggests sex is a painkiller - and I don't know about you, but that's the kind of medication I'd gladly take.
So, here's a few tips to maintain a healthy sex life whilst living with chronic pain.
- Be honest
This is such a massive deal, especially if your illness is invisible and you've not mentioned it yet. You don't have to go into detail (if you don't want to), you don't even have to say you have a condition, it could be something simple like, 'I sometimes get pain in...' Phrase it however you like, but it's better to bring it up than for something nightmarish to happen. It's also really worthwhile talking about it so if you're in a particular position that is causing you pain, or you need to stop, your partner knows why and doesn't feel like they've hurt you. Communication is vital for a healthy sex life and to let your partner know what's going on. Even if you've been in a relationship for years, your partner can't read your mind, so your honesty about your pain will ensure you're both enjoying each other as much as possible.
- Plan ahead
I know, I know, who plans sex? I'm not saying you need to plan it every single time, or you need a sex-routine but if you take into account when you're going to be least sore, least fatigued, you'll just know the better days/nights for you. Let's be serious here, if I've been out all day, have had to take extra pain medication and can barely move, I won't be up for a shag but once I've had a day or two to recuperate, it can be on the cards.
Is this a redundant tip? I don't think so. I often forget to take my pain meds before I start a task and then end up so much worse off afterwards. If you know you're going to have sex and are due your pills, take them. You'll be in less pain and able to revel in the experience.
- Try different positions
There's plenty of wild, demanding positions you could get into but there's also many that require much less physical strain. Find out what works well for you and doesn't exacerbate your pain - side by side or missionary aren't to be grumbled at. If your partner doesn't suffer with chronic pain it might be worthwhile asking them whether they're willing to do most of the work. You never know, it might be a great solution.
Pillows and cushions will come in very handy, to helping maintain a position, easing pain on a particular body part, and even lifting the pelvis. Experiment with pillows, various sizes and shapes to help you remain comfortable whilst doing the deed.
- It doesn't have to be penetrative
Penetrative sex isn't the only way to experience sex, and for a chronic pain sufferer it's sometimes completely off the table; instead try oral, masturbation, toys. Any kind of intimacy can help rekindle a lost sexual relationship, cuddling and kissing are always a good place to start.
If you have any tips or want me to discuss a particular topic, leave me a comment.