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Blending Intimacy and Fibromyalgia
Sure, fibromyalgia means you're often achy and tired. But this condition doesn't necessarily mean the end of your sex life — if you don't want it to.
By Gina Roberts-Grey
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Maintaining a fulfilling sex life poses a major challenge for people who suffer from fibromyalgia. That's because the main symptoms of the disorder — pain at the slightest touch and debilitating fatigue — often turn a pleasurable encounter into a chore. These afflictions, experts say, lead many to feel increasingly isolated from their partner.
"Not being able to enjoy normal, healthy physical exchanges can be demoralizing," acknowledges Gregory Petersen, Ph.D., a health psychologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Wellness Institute in Chicago. But fibromyalgia needn't spell the end of romance or even sexual intimacy, he insists. Rather, keeping your love life going is all about managing your moods and knowing when the time is right.
Be Creative and Adapt
Intercourse isn't the only way to be intimate, Dr. Petersen observes. "If fibromyalgia symptoms temporarily prevent you from having sexual relations, look to other ways to build and strengthen the bond with your partner," he advises. For example, try sharing a romantic book or movie until you're able to reconnect physically. Or discuss the things the two of you enjoy most about your intimate moments together.
You can also experiment with different sexual positions. Some of these may minimize pain so that your fibromyalgia doesn't interfere with intimacy. Talk to your partner about which spots on your body are the most sensitive or sore, and explore ways to keep pressure off those places. "Putting pillows under a sore hip or arm can help significantly," Dr. Petersen says.
Know Your Window
Dr. Petersen also suggests keeping track of the times of day when you're most likely to be at your best. It might be that you feel good first thing in the morning, or after taking a relaxing bath. Or perhaps your symptoms are best controlled an hour or so after taking a pain reliever. "Capitalize on the moments when you're able to control your symptoms," says Dr. Petersen. "Those are key times to enjoy intimate moments."
Be Honest and Open
Whatever else you do, be candid with your partner. "Many people with fibromyalgia think they need to hide their symptoms," says Dr. Petersen, "Just remember, there's no reason to try to be a hero." In fact, that's the last thing your partner would want you to do — and pretending to ignore the pain won't help anyone.
Reassure your partner that your level of attraction remains as high as ever. That way, he or she will be less likely to feel rejected when you're physically not up to sexual intimacy.
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