Advice on Managing Pain and Maintaining a Healthy Sex Life

Intimacy in a relationship is vital for human connection; it’s a natural and important part of living a healthy and happy life. But when chronic pain invades your life, it can strip you of the pleasure that comes with being intimate and lead to other issues. How can you maintain a healthy, sexually active relationship when headaches, lower back pain or other chronic illnesses are limiting your ability or desire to engage in life and intimacy? Here are tips and information about how—and why—you should still make your intimate life a priority.

Know you are not alone

Research shows that 30 per cent of women report having anxiety around sex and intimacy from chronic pain. It is known as a ‘silent epidemic’ because few people feel comfortable discussing their issues around intimacy. Chronic pain from headaches causes 
69 per cent of women to avoid intimacy and sex. Those statistics are astounding considering how important intimacy is for health and happiness.

Chronic pain can lead to lack of self-confidence in your relationship

It is very common for people who are in chronic pain to feel insecure in their relationship. They often feel that their partner has lost interest and is less attracted to them because of the pain. It is very important to express your concerns with your partner and to work through those feelings. Chronic pain interferes with your sexuality and intimacy because of the pain itself or other factors that are associated with chronic pain, including mood disorders, decreased libido, medications or stress. Any combination of those factors will cause the pain sufferer to feel inadequate in a relationship and less willing to engage sexually. Often times the pain can be managed with medications, however, the side effects can also further limit your desire to be intimate.

Work with a good team 
to develop a treatment plan

The interesting thing about pain is that it can be managed. The right group of health care providers can help you develop a treatment plan to ensure that your pain and symptoms are treated appropriately. A combination of treatments is the most effective, since each healing modality has something different to offer.

I always begin chronic pain treatment with Registered Massage Therapy to help loosen tight muscles that are contributing to pain. When muscles become loose, it takes pressure off of joints so movement can be achieved with ease and less pain.

Chiropractic adjustments are a great way to reduce pain and keep the body limber. If your spine is in alignment, it is easy for muscles and joints to perform. Your body will have fewer physical restrictions enabling you to move through pain.

Staying physically active

Regardless of the pain you may be experiencing daily, it is important to continue to be physically active as well as sexually active. The body’s natural painkillers, called endorphins, which are released when you are physically and sexually active, can be healing and can make you feel more able and willing to engage in life. Further reducing the amount of activity in your life will only make getting back on track more difficult.
I suggest finding an activity that you love and be sure to do it once per day. It can be as simple as a short walk in the park or in a mall, or a five- to 10-minute session on an elliptical machine or treadmill. Any form or duration of physical activity is a great place to start. Stick with it to build the stamina you need to heal. A daily dose of feel good hormones from exercise will help to elevate your mood and naturally reduce some of the pain and discomfort.

It is important for your health and your relationship to be sexually active while you are trying to manage your pain. Experimenting with different positions that will cause the least pain and anxiety is helpful. Many chronic pain sufferers report that missionary position or a side-lying position is easiest and most physically accommodating.

Be more physically active with your partner

The key to a healthy and happy life is the ability to be active for many, many years. When this ability seems to be stripped from you due to chronic pain, getting back into motion can seem like an impossible feat. However, studies do show that maintaining even a small level of activity is key. To replenish your mind, body and soul from the effects of chronic pain, I recommend being active with your partner. Engaging in stretching and other movement techniques as a couple is an effective way of keeping your relationship healthy and your body mobile so that chronic pain does not get the better of you and your sex life.

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About the Author

Dr. Claudia Machiella

Dr. Claudia Machiella

Dr. Claudia Machiella owns and operates one of the GTA’s leading chiropractic clinics.  Since 2001 Dr. Claudia Machiella has grown and built her practice and has been a Chiropractic advocate in her community.  Most recently she has opened a second location in Vaughan in order to provide increased accessibility to chiropractic so that more people […]

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