Fibromyalgia and sexuality
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit
There are many things that can interfere with getting pleasure and satisfaction from sex. This information comes from the Arthritis Foundation and the Fibromyalgia Network
A chronic condition such as fibromyalgia, interferes with sexual pleasure by introducing pain, fatigue, depression, and functional limitation.
Pain is a a daily irritant for fibromyalgia sufferers and interferes with sex. There is fear of movement, discomfort, and increased pain.
Becauses of the heightened response to stimuli, aggressive sex is not advised. Gentle sexual intercourse is soothing. Following orgasm, endorphins are released. Endorphins are the body's own natural painkillers and their beneficial effect can last up to a few hours.
Increasing pleasure while pain is the goal. Visual stimulation can be helpful since the mind is the most powerful sexual organ.
Planning can be useful. While this cuts down on spontaneity, it reduces pain.
-Plan sex for the time of day you generally feel best
-Take medications to allow the peak of the dose to occur during sex
-Take a warm bath or shower to soothe joints and muscles
-Try new positions which might be less painful
Stress caused by a chronic illness can potentially lead to relationship problems. Open communication is imperative. Your fears and your partner's fears must be discussed.
Perhaps your partner is afraid that sexual activity will cause you pain.
Medications which are taken to treat fibromyalgia to relieve pain can have side effects which affect desire and performance. Depression, fatigue, and weight gain are among the side effects. A change in medication or in the dosage schedule may make a difference.
If you were in good physical condition prior to the diagnosis, you may have lost muscle mass due to inability to continue with aerobic exercise or weight lifting.
Perception is important for self-esteem in sex. Feeling that you are undesirable due to physical ailments can affect your relationship with your partner. Fatigue and pain also play a major part in sexuality, and medications which aid in your sleep patterns can affect the desire for intimacy.
Sexual intercourse and orgasm are a great stress reliever. Yet if you are hypersensitive to touch, feel fatigued, or have achy muscles due to your fibromyalgia, the last thing you want to do is expend your limited energy reserves for sexual intercourse. Your lack of desire may cause both impotence or painful intercourse. Open communication on how you are feeling physically is very important because without it, your significant other may feel rejected and angry.
Planning a time together when sexual intimacy is most desirable for both people is very important. Some people with fibromyalgia feel more energetic in the morning after a good night's sleep, while others prefer the time before sleep in order to use sex as a relaxant to aid in their sleep patterns. Those without children may prefer the time before or after the evening meal. The important key is to communicate and also be willing to change the time if either person is not in the mood or the person with fibromyalgia is having a very bad flare. Pacing yourself throughout the day in order to have a reserve of energy for sexual intercourse is important for sexual intimacy. Taking a warm bath or shower, setting the mood with the use of candles and soft music, and having a gentle body massage with a favorite fragrance or lotion can relax tight muscles and ease your mind from the stress of difficult day. Also, it may be easier to have the person without fibromyalgia take a more active role. Then you can enjoy the sensations rather than feeling that you have to perform.
Controlled studies have shown that certain antidepressants used to treat FM have the side effects of either delayed or absent orgasm and ejaculatory delay. A variety of treatment options are available if a person experiences antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Often, modification of the pharmacologic regimen will restore sexual function while maintaining the desired effects of the antidepressant. This is where a knowledgeable physician and pharmacist can be helpful. Explaining to one's significant other that the medication is causing sexual dysfunction can relieve the stress and frustration of a partner who may feel that they are at fault. Sometimes it takes several months before the side effects of a particular medication can be seen as the problem for sexual dysfunction. It is very important to discuss this with your physician. There are some antidepressants whose side effects of sexual dysfunction aren't as strong as others, and if another antidepressant can aid in sleep and pain levels, then it may be necessary to change the medication.
Dealing with the feelings of body image can’t be ignored. Although you may still look the same, you may not see yourself as you used to be. Some people with fibromyalgia are able to maintain their weight, even though they may be on medications which can alter it. Others can continue to exercise without creating greater pain or fatigue. But you may no longer be able to do the exercises you used to do. You may have gained or lost weight due to the necessary medications which are needed to keep symptoms at a minimum. You may feel embarrassed about being seen or touched, even by a long-term significant other. Being teased about weight changes or lack of muscle tone in everyday interactions can cause you to feel uncomfortable during sexual intimacy. Communication of how you see yourself and how you feel about the changes in your body is extremely important. You must not let your partner make light of your feelings. Your feelings are your own, and what you see in your mirror is how you see yourself. Being told that you are beautiful, have soft skin, nice legs, or any other positive comments may not be believed if that is not what you see. Letting your partner know that you don't see the positives at this time can clue them in on how you’re feeling.
Self-gratification or masturbation is nothing to be ashamed of, and mutual masturbation may also be important for releasing tension when intercourse is too painful. Denying yourself sexual desire because you feel certain behaviors are wrong is not helpful for yourself physically or emotionally.
Acceptance of yourself just as you are isn't always easy when you are living with a chronic condition, but you have the right to enjoy life, feel sexual and sensual.
Get more information about fibromyalgia and sexuality and related issues as well as...
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