Let’s just get straight to the point: Sex is great! It’s good fun and good for you — unless it hurts. And people with arthritis are all too aware of how quickly sex can go from “wow” to “whoa” when you’re coping with chronic pain or pain brought on by certain movements. I mean, nothing says sexy like “I think you’re breaking my pelvis.”
But that doesn’t mean you should avoid sex. In fact, sex is one of the best activities you can do for arthritis, says Laura Deitsch, a licensed clinical professional counselor and sexologist with Vibrant.
Sex is gentle, low-impact exercise. The endorphins released by a good orgasm can even reduce pain and inflammation, Deitsch explains. The trick is finding sex positions that maximize pleasure while avoiding your particular pain spots.
These tips for a hotter sex life with arthritis can help too.
“Arthritis patients live with chronic pain that isn’t alleviated by time, stretching, or simple healing,” she says. “So in order to keep lovemaking happy with an arthritic body, we have to get creative.
Finding the ideal position will be very individual, but these six are worth giving a shot. Keep an open mind and read on:
Face down, legs together
Have the receiving partner lay down on their stomach on the bed while the giving partner enters from behind. If the receiving partner has hip, hand, and/or knee problems, laying on the stomach will provide a lot of relief, Deitsch says. Plus, squeezing the legs together can help increase and intensify an orgasm in women. (There’s a reason so many ladies self-pleasure in this position.) Avoid this position if you have neck issues, she cautions.
Face down, bottom up
The receiving partner lays face down with a wedge or regular pillow to support their hips and lift their butt up in the air. The giving partner enters from behind. Entering from behind, as opposed to face-to-face, requires less stretching of the hips, legs, and pelvis for the receiving partner, Deitsch says. This can help the bottom partner if they have sore hips or their back prevents them from lying flat; if the top partner is the one in pain, this move doesn’t put as much pressure on their knees or low back.
Standing up, facing a wall
Standing up takes the pressure off the receiving partner — literally, Deitsch says. Have the receiving partner stand facing a wall, bracing themselves with their hands or forearms, while the giving partner enters from behind. This allows the giving partner to offer additional support if necessary and the standing position requires less stretching of the pelvic area and less stress on both people’s shoulders, she adds. If height presents a problem, try having the shorter partner stand on a sturdy box.
Straddling sitting up or laying down
Having one partner straddle the other during sex offers several advantages for people with arthritis, she says. You can have the giver or the receiver in either position. For the person laying down, this takes pressure off knees, ankles, and feet while allowing for the hips to be supported with pillows. If back pain makes lying flat too difficult, the person on the bottom can sit up with their back propped up. For the person doing the straddling, this takes pressure off the hands, elbows, wrists, and shoulders, while still allowing for intimate eye contact. This also allows the person on top to control the speed and depth of penetration.
“Scissoring sideways can be helpful for people who are experiencing hip or back issues or who find thrusting painful,” Deitsch says. While it may take some maneuvering at first — you just need to get into a position where you can grind your genitals on the other person in some way — eventually you should be able to relax into it. “This position allows people to adjust themselves and not have as great of a thrusting impact which can reduce pain,” she explains.
Pull out the toy box
Sometimes there simply is no position that is perfectly comfortable for both partners, but that doesn’t mean you both can’t have a mutually satisfying experience or that one needs to suffer for the other, she says. Enter: adult toys.
“As joints stiffen in the hand, vibrators can act as a tool for fingers that aren’t as mobile or nimble,” Deitsch explains. She recommends the Palm Power specifically for arthritis patients, thanks to its wide array of attachments, or the Mimic for those looking for a more natural experience. As an added bonus, some studies have found that vibration can reduce inflammation and pain in joints, she adds. Win/win.