February is the month of Love but for a pain patient and their significant other intimacy may suffer on a regular basis. We know intimacy is an important aspect in keeping a healthy lifestyle. Often times, chronic pain patients forget that sexuality is an important part in a partnered relationship when their pain levels are high. In spite of chronic pain, you and your significant other can have an active sexual relationship that is quite satisfying. You just have to be creative with getting around the challenges of chronic pain. All people need emotional and physical intimacy. The vital need for human connection helps stimulate our sexuality. Sex is an important aspect of our identity, and when chronic pain comes into the picture, it is often the last thing we are concerned with nurturing.

Talking with your partner is the first step in reclaiming your sexuality. Try starting the discussion fully clothed, in the living room or in a neutral setting. When speaking, use “I” so that you’re not putting stress, pressure or anxiety on your partner. An example is, “I love when you hold me close; it makes me feel cared for” versus “You must not love me; you never touch me.” Maybe the partner is afraid of causing you pain, and if you let him or her know you are still interested and willing to have intimacy, you can put your partner at ease. Conclusions you may have jumped to as to why your partner has stopped touching you can be cleared up. It is usually not that they lost interest in sex or in you or that they now find you undesirable.

Chronic pain can cause an emotional wedge between you and your partner. Becoming aware that your physical and emotional distance hurts your partner may add to your fear, guilt, resentment and anxiety. Relationship problems can exacerbate stress even in strong relationships. Medical problems like chronic pain lead to unemployment, financial issues, a less kept house and lower self-esteem that can uncover previously hidden conflicts with your partner. If you do not have a plan, you may suffer in the human connection and intimacy area.

If you are feeling unattractive and undesirable, your own actions may be preventing the intimacy you desire. Become aware of your needs and your partner’s needs for sexual contact and passion. There are times when sex seems out of the question. There are times when I am simply hurting too much or feel too tired for sex. However, I will try to remember that my partner needs the love just as much as I do and that for this period of time, I can get my mind off of the pain. When I am planning for intimacy ahead of time, I can take stronger pain control medication so that I can experience the same pleasure my partner is feeling. Also, medications can lower your libido just as a low self-esteem does. Some medications lower sex drive by affecting blood flow and hormones. The want for sex is also diminished by changes in your nervous system. Keeping this in mind will help your plan stay in effect and increase the satisfaction of your partner and your own intimate needs.

Being creative is a way to enhance and amplify your intimacy needs. Things such as holding hands, cuddling, fondling, massaging and kissing increase these intimacy feelings. The bottom line is that intimacy and sexuality can actually make you feel better. The contact you achieve while having sex can help you feel stronger and the intimacy you build with your partner will help you both better cope with your chronic pain.

NOTE: If you think that your sex drive is not normal due to a side effect of a medication you are taking, it is important to speak to your doctor about it. Medications can also cause a lack in libido.

Author's Bio: 

Ms. Ingle is a Chronic Pain Educator for the Power of Pain Foundation, guest speaker for The American Pain Foundation’s Power Over Pain Campaign since 2007 and National Motivational speaker. She has been a pain patient since 2002 and began mentoring other patients through The RSDHope Organization in 2006.

Prior to her auto accident causing chronic pain and subsequent surgeries, Barby was a business owner, event coordinator and head coach at Washington State University for the entire spirit program. Barby has managed a staff of 40 employees and over 50 team members/volunteers. She performed administrative and legal tasks pertinent to managing a small business. Head trainer for all instructional and judging staff. She created and choreographed original program material. Educated and certified all cheer and dance coaches in the state of Washington running up to 25 conferences a year. Barby prepared speeches, tests, manuals and performed presentations.

Barby had been speaking at charity events, awards ceremonies, special groups and all kinds of public venues for 17 years as part of her job as a Collegiate Head Coach, business owner and now as a patient advocate. She graduated from the George Mason University in 1994 with a degree in Social Psychology. Ms. Ingle uses her skills from Cheerleading to inspire and motivate patients to be self advocates and offers tips and tools for patients, caretakers and healthcare professionals. Honors include 2003 who’s who of U.S. Cheerleading coach’s honoree, 2004 Cheer LTD. Coach of the year nominee, Teams ranked nationally in the top 10, coached at the Sun Bowl and two Rose Bowls. Barby has also served as a National speaker, Author of the Cheertec Coaches' Handbook; six part DVD Series on aspects of cheerleading, RSD in Me! A Patient And Caregivers Guide To Dealing With RSD And Other Chronic Pain Conditions. She is also a contributor to Cheerleader! An American Icon and CO-Arthur of The Wisdom of Ingle.