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Sex, relationships and arthritis

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Will arthritis change our relationship?

Arthritis can present challenges which can cause stress and have a negative impact on yours or your partner’s sex drive. Although your relationship may change because of arthritis, many couples find that they become closer by discussing things openly. Talk about your arthritis and its affects, the changing situation and any challenges that you face so you can arrive at a solution that’s right for both of you.

If you're not in a relationship, keep up your social contacts as much as possible and think of new activities to try so you don't lose your self-confidence. Don't forget most relationships develop gradually and depend on shared interests more than physical considerations. Read more >

Will having sex affect my arthritis?

Sex won't make arthritis worse, although it may cause discomfort if your joints are painful. You can try different positions if this is the case.

Reactive arthritis is trigged by sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) so it's important to use protection if you've had this type of arthritis before. Read more >

Will arthritis affect my sex life?

There are a number of ways that arthritis can affect your sex life, but if sex has been an important part of your relationship in the past then you should aim to continue whatever sexual relationship meets yours and your partner’s needs. You may want to make the most of opportunities on your better days and experiment with different positions. Read more >

Will drugs affect my sex life?

Most drugs commonly used to treat arthritis are unlikely to affect your sex life or contraception, but you should discuss your medications with your doctor if you think they may be affecting you in this way. Read more >

Will my joint replacement affect my sex life?

A knee or hip replacement operation may improve your sex life, although it will take some time to recover and for the wound to heal. Most people feel able to start having sex again about six weeks after the operation. Following a hip replacement, you need to take care with certain movements because there’s a risk of dislocating the new joint. Read more >

How can we overcome difficulties with sex?

If joint pain is making sex uncomfortable:
  • experiment with different positions or other forms of sexual stimulation
  • take painkillers before having sex
  • ask your partner for a massage or suggest you share a bath
  • make the most of days when your joints are less painful.

If fatigue is affecting sexual desire or enjoyment of other shared activities:

  • plan out your day so that it contains periods of activity and rest to improve your energy level
  • think about new activities to replace those that are becoming difficult.

If loss of self-confidence is affecting your sex life:

  • explain to your partner that you feel self-conscious about swollen joints or other signs of arthritis – your partner may not be aware of how you feel
  • some reassurance will probably be appreciated if your partner is self-conscious about the appearance of their joints.
Read more >


With a little experimentation and open discussion, you and your partner will be able to find positions that are comfortable and enjoyable for both of you. You can find example of positions that are suitable if you've had a hip replacement, for example. Read more >

Who else can I talk to about sex and arthritis?

You can discuss your problems with anyone you feel comfortable with. This may be:
  • a friend 
  • someone else with arthritis
  • your GP or nurse specialist
  • counsellors at organisations such as Relate or Brook, who are specially trained to help with sex and relationship difficulties.
Read more >

Will we be able to have a baby?

There’s no reason why arthritis should prevent you from having children, but you should discuss it with your doctor before trying for a baby because some medications can have an effect on fertility and pregnancy. Read more >
For more information, go to or call 0300 790 0400 to order the complete printed booklet.
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