Valentines’ Day Special

Valentines dayPersonally, in my (now) 42 years, I don’t think I have EVER had sex on Valentine’s Day – whether I was healthy or not. I may not have been in a relationship or I may have been and it just didn’t happen that day. But I know that, given the opportunity, I would love to ‘make lurve’ on Valentine’s Day (and, of course, decorate accordingly!)

I know that some of you cannot even think of having sex without bringing on a flare – Me? I’d put up with a flare at the moment for a little loving!

Imagine this:

It’s 9pm tonight. You’ve just put the kids to bed. It’s been a long, exhausting day. It feels like 4 in the morning and you’re ready to fall over. Suddenly your other half looks at you in that way, smiles and strokes your arm, and you know he/she wants to ‘make lurve.’

So, what’s your reaction?

Decreased sexual interest is not considered a common characteristic of FM. Nonetheless, a 2003 Brazilian study, involving women in their 40s and 50s, half of whom had FM and half of whom did not, found that the healthy group was likelier to have had a regular sexual relationship in the last six months than those with FM. The FM group members were less satisfied with their sex life, had more pain during intercourse, experienced more fatigue during sexual intimacy, and were less likely to initiate sexual intimacy than healthy women.

We already know that FM is more foe than friend.  While many of us are too tired for sex, it is the muscle pain that leads to pressure and a squeezing of the pelvic area and lower back that ultimately result in muscle cramping during sexual intercourse. This naturally causes a great deal of discomfort, making it difficult to engage in certain sexual behaviours.

Sex may eventually become something that is no longer pleasurable (I can’t believe I said that!), but a negative experience. One’s natural tendency is to avoid such physically intimate situations, especially given that one is too tired or sore for sex.

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So, who can be bothered? (Pick me! Pick me!)

Further, taking a toll on one’s sex life are FM medications that decrease libido and a man’s ability to attain or maintain erection. Anti-depressants can also take a toll on a person’s sexual functioning. A person living with FM may react negatively to bodily changes, like weight changes and the loss of muscle mass.

As lovers feel less connected in the boudoir, their sexual relationship takes a hit (ie: unless you take steps to stay mentally and spiritually connected while attempting to be physically intimate). It’s important to realise that the release of hormones and endorphins, natural opioids, during sex can help to relieve FM symptoms, like pain and depression, and boost well-being. This double-sided sword is that while sex can relieve symptoms of FM, FM itself may result in a decreased libido, and, definitely, fatigue and pain that hinder a person’s desire and ability to engage in sexual intercourse.

Maintaining your sex life is vital to your health and well-being. In order to have a healthy sex life, why not try some of these pointers:

  • Practice acceptance. Adapt. Make peace with the fact that you need to deal with this condition, and then allow yourself to reclaim your life in every way.
  • Maintain a routine that helps you to feel good about yourself – not necessarily just grooming. Sometimes you need to treat yourself to feel good. Take yourself off for a hot oil massage or a manicure.
  • Stay physically active, preferably with your partner, as much as possible, as another way to feel better about yourself, possibly boosting your sex drive.
  • Manage stress with relaxation techniques like meditation.
  • Talk to your doctor about how your condition is affecting your sex life, including any medications that may be at play.
  • Arm yourself with information. Become educated about your condition and how FM impacts your sexuality and sexual expression. This is a must in talking to your partner about everything that’s taking place. Being informed can also help to alleviate your lover’s concerns, helping both of you to stay emotionally connected.
  • Allow your partner to be more active during sex if possible (Absolutely nothing bad about THAT!)
  • Plan for sex after luxuriating in a warm bath or using a moist heat application, both of which ease FM pain, inflammation, muscle spasms, and stiffness.
  • Experiment with different sexual positions. There are plenty of activities and positions that are ideal for fatigue; and many ways to avoid painful sex. And have fun trying them ALL out! (see the attachment)
  • Enjoy each other despite flare ups. Part of this is not being so goal-oriented during a love-making session. Allow things to happen as they can.
  • Stay physically connected by just cuddling (unless such is not made possible by allondynia, where the brain misinterprets neutral or pleasant stimuli for pain).

Finally?

Don’t give up. It might feel like you’re never going to want to have sex ever again – but that’s the fibro talking, not you. Lust strikes at the oddest moment, and people can have sex in a myriad of ways. So have fun exploring what works best for you. and you’ll feel IT again.

And when you do, take advantage of it, and enjoy it! Happy Valentine’s Day!

For those grown-ups among us (and those NOT easily offended), please check out these recommended sexual positions that require less physical exertion. This is adult content –  By clicking “I Agree” below, you are agreeing to the following:

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FibroMAGIC Sex

If you have FM, you may also be having problems with your sex life or relationships (if you have one!). You could be experiencing loss of libido or having difficulty with sexual performance. It’s also possible your libido is healthy, but the pain and stiffness of FM stops you from enjoying sex the way you used to.

It’s not unusual for people with any chronic illness to complain about having problems with their sex life. But a healthy sex life is important for many reasons:

  1. Not only does sex strengthen an intimate relationship, but sexual intercourse boosts endorphins. Those are the body’s natural opioids that help decrease pain and increase well-being.
  2. From my point of view (and many single FM sufferers), you are very lucky to have one – so you need to keep it up!

Talking openly with your doctor and following a few practical tips can help you resolve problems associated with FM, pain, and sex. Then you can begin to enjoy this aspect of your life again.

What Causes Loss of Libido With FM?

Some of the medications, such as Paxil and Zoloft, used in our treatment may cause reduced sex drive. If you take an antidepressant and have problems with libido, talk to your doctor. A simple change of medication or a reduction in dose may improve your sex drive and allow you to enjoy your relationships more.

Further, for some of us, having to deal with the uncomfortable symptoms of FM, including the ongoing pain, fatigue, anxiety, and stiffness, is difficult enough without thinking of being physically active with sexual activity. Learning to self-manage these symptoms with medications, exercise, and lifestyle habits may help to boost your sex life.

How Can I Have Sex if I Hurt all Over?

Some FM patients give up romantic aspirations for fear of further injury and pain. Yet being intimate with your partner is still possible. With FM pain and tender points, you need to work with your partner to find the most comfortable position during sexual intercourse. For instance, if you have FM with low back pain, you may find that having your partner on top or lying on his or her side is most comfortable for you. Or, if you’re a woman who has FM and hip pain, you might use a pillow between your knees to stabilize your body during sexual intercourse.

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(FYI: In the next issue of LIVING WELL with FIBROMYALGIA, there will be a ‘sealed’ Valentines’ Day section, showing specific positions (don’t worry, they are NOT photos of me!) that may help with different pains)

Just because you have always had sex in a particular way does not mean that’s the only way. You need to be patient, take it slowly, and find the best sexual positions that allow you to be intimate without causing further pain. Keep in mind, there is no right or wrong way to be intimate with your partner. It may be time to bring out that 1970s copy of the Karma Sutra that you have hidden at the back of your bookcase or night table – find the positions that work for you.

Can Soaking in a Warm Bath Before Sex Help?

Moist heat, including soaking in a warm bath, can help ease FM pain and may allow you to enjoy sexual intercourse – or any exercise – without added pain. Heat increases blood flow to the site and decreases stiffness.

When using moist heat, make sure it is not too warm or you can burn your skin. You might soak in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes before sexual intercourse or other physical activity to get the full benefit. You may also soak in a warm bath after sexual intercourse or other physical activity. Other popular types of moist heat include a warm shower (sit on a chair, if needed), warm whirlpool or hot tub, heated swimming pool, and a moist heating pad.

Is Stress Linked to Sexual Problems and FM?

Stress may trigger FM symptoms. Yet managing stress may help control your symptoms and balance your daily life, which can boost your libido. Stress management may include a combination of exercises, relaxation techniques (deep breathing or meditation exercises), a good sleep routine, and proper nutrition.

Exercise (including sex) releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural stress-fighting hormones, so any type of physical exercise is a good stress-control measure. Relaxation therapies such as deep abdominal breathing, visualisation or guided imagery, and meditation are also helpful in managing stress.

What Else May Help my Sex Life With FM?

If you have FM, talk to your doctor and see if medications can boost libido and/or sexual performance. Improving your overall health by treating any other medical problems may also help.