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How can we overcome difficulties with sex?

Below are just a few ideas on how to overcome any issues that arthritis may cause for your relationship:

Keep active

Your sex drive and enjoyment is generally greater if you feel fit and active. Exercising will help you keep up your muscle strength and tone and the range of movement in your joints. 

Read more about exercise and looking after your joints.

Talk about it

Be prepared to talk openly with your partner about your concerns, whether it’s a physical or emotional problem. Fear of pain may make you apprehensive about sex, but your partner may also be scared of hurting you. Sometimes worries like this lead couples to avoid sex and physical intimacy.

Let your partner know if something is uncomfortable, but tell them what feels good too. If things don’t get better after you’ve talked to each other, consider involving someone from a professional organisation. Your doctor can refer you.

Plan ahead

When pain is a problem, take painkillers about an hour before having sex. This may not seem very spontaneous but it’s worthwhile if it makes sex more comfortable.

Your joints may also feel more comfortable after a hot bath or shower – why not share one with your partner?

Our information on fatigue can give you more tips about planning and pacing yourself to help you keep doing activites you enjoy.


Massage can help relax joints and muscles, and this can form part of foreplay.

Try a different position

There are many positions you can try with one or both partners standing, kneeling or sitting. If one position puts a strain on your joints, it’s worth experimenting with others. Or try using cushions, pillows or different pieces of furniture to support you. 

Try something else

Penetrative sex isn’t the only way to achieve sexual satisfaction. Many couples find kissing, caressing and mutual masturbation just as enjoyable. Oral sex can also be pleasurable, although it may cause discomfort if you have a painful jaw joint.

Sex aids such as vibrators are readily available online or from mail-order catalogues (they are usually sent out in discreet packaging). These are used much more widely than many people realise and can be particularly helpful to relax painful joints and muscles as well as for genital stimulation.


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