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A passionate doctor, mother and health enthusiast, Dr. Machiella teaches those around her to embrace a lifestyle that promotes a sound body, mind and spirit.

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What to do When Chronic Pain interferes with Intimacy

November 17, 2018

Intimacy in a relationship is vital for human connection and is vital in order to fulfill that need. It’s a natural and important part of living healthy and happy, however when chronic pain invades your life and strips you of the pleasure that comes with being intimate, it can lead to other issues. When you are in chronic pain the last thing you want to be is intimate with your partner. However, despite the pain you may be experiencing it is important to remain intimate since a healthy, sexually active relationship can positively affect all aspects of your life. So even if your headaches, or lower back pain are limiting your ability or desire to engage in life, let alone intimacy, below are a few tips and reasons why you should still make your intimate life a priority.

You’re not alone:
Research shows that 30% of women report having anxiety around sex and intimacy from chronic pain. It is also known as the ‘silent epidemic’ because few people feel comfortable discussing their issues around intimacy. Chronic pain from headaches cause 69% 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 individuals 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 disorder, 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.

Working through the pain should be part of the plan:
Regardless of the pain you may be experiencing daily, it is important to continue to be physically active as well as sexually active. The bodies natural pain killers called endorphins that 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. Whether it be a short walk in the park or in a mall or a 5 to 10 min session on exercise equipment like an elliptical machine or treadmill. Any form or duration of physical activity is a great place to start.

I recommend a workout and treatment plan that is tailored to your needs and abilities and stick with it so that you can 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.

Getting a good Team of Individuals to put you on a Treatment Plan
The interesting thing about pain is that it can be managed. With the right group of health care providers who will help you and get you on a treatment plan you will 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.

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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