How to Have Sex with Chronic Pain

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How to Have Sex with A, B and C

Arthritis, Back and Chronic Pain all have a significant impact on daily activities and the general enjoyment of life. The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that eight out of ten Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. So if you or your partner has arthritis, back pain or any kind of chronic pain, then it’s not surprising that your sex life is limited.

A new review by The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) researchers in Nature Reviews Neuroscience looks at recent research on pain and the brain. It suggests that chronic pain affects the anatomy of the brain and impairs certain nerve pathways, leading to a “negative feedback loop” that results in more pain and accompanying emotional and reasoning problems. What’s exciting about this discovery is that feedback loops can be mitigated by mindful meditation. Many people affected by
chronic pain are learning how the mind can control the body, and are adopting practices such as meditation and yoga to reduce stress and control pain.

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and author of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom says, “One of the enduring changes in the brain of those who routinely meditate is that the brain becomes thicker. In other words, those who routinely meditate build synapses, synaptic networks, and layers of capillaries (the tiny blood vessels that bring metabolic supplies such as glucose or oxygen to busy regions), which an MRI shows is measurably thicker in two major regions of the brain. One is in the pre-frontal cortex, located right behind the forehead. It’s involved in the executive control of attention – of deliberately paying attention to something. This change makes sense because that’s what you’re doing when you meditate or engage in a contemplative activity. The second brain area that gets bigger is a very important part called the insula.

The insula tracks both the interior state of the body and the feelings of other people, which is fundamental to empathy. So, people who routinely tune into their own bodies – through some kind of mindfulness practice – make their insula thicker, which helps them become more self-aware and empathic.” This is a good illustration of “neuroplasticity,” which is the idea that “as the mind changes, the brain changes,” or as Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb puts it, “neurons that fire together wire together.”

In her book, A Slice of the Beloved, Gurutej Kaur shares her forty years of yoga teachings, with exercises for singles and couples that can heal the mind and the body.


Quickly and powerfully move your hands, in front of your heart center, as if dusting them off. This will help bring calm and quiet. It is also great way to release a distressing thought or experience.


Sit across from each other on your heels or in a comfortable pose. Lean forward, placing your foreheads together. Place your hands on each other’s shoulders or around the waist. This posture connects third eye to third-eye, stimulating the pituitary gland and intuition spot.

Talk It Through

Equally important to exercise is good communication with your partner. He or she cannot help you or create a better lovemaking experience if you don’t share the experience of your pain. Sharing a warm bath and experimenting with pillows can be a way to relax and begin the process towards intimacy.

“Talk about it,” says Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasing a Woman.

“Back pain can be tricky because people often look fine, even if they feel terrible. That’s all the more reason to keep your partner in the loop. Don’t try to please your partner at the expense of hurting yourself. Your partner will feel the distraction in your body language,
and conclude that something is wrong. If you’re not forthcoming that the ‘something’ is back pain, their imagination could run wild.”

Try Different Positions

Joint pain can make sexual contact uncomfortable, but don’t give up trying new positions or timing of sexual activity. There may be certain positions that would work better than others, to bring you both satisfaction without one person having to “grin and bear it.”
It can feel awkward at first to talk to your partner about how you’re going to make love, but you may find that the experience deepens your connection with each other. The steps taken to find comfortable sexual positions such as Spooning or Scissors can bring you back to the same page, erotically speaking.

If your pain is much too severe to try having sex, talk to a medical professional and take solace in the fact that the severity is likely temporary, and focus on other acts that can maintain your intimacy without rigorous performance.

Kissing is Erotic

Get comfortable and hold hands, then start kissing and enjoy locking lips for as long as you can.

Sheril Kirshenbaum, author of The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us, writes, “The part of our bodies sending the most information to our brains during a kiss is, without a doubt, the lips. Packed with nerve endings, they are extremely sensitive to pressure, warmth, cold, and indeed to every kind of stimulus. One of the most remarkable things about the brain’s role in kissing is the disproportionate neural space associated with our lips compared with the rest of our bodies. Just a light brush on them stimulates a very large part of the brain – an area even more expansive than would be activated by sexual stimulation below the belt.

A kiss sends sensations directly to the limbic system that part of our brain associated with love, passion, and lust. As neural impulses bounce between the brain and the tongue, the facial muscles, the lips, and the skin, they stimulate our bodies to produce a number of neurotransmitters and hormones.”

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Dr. Ava Cadell is America’s #1 Sexpert as a Clinical Sexologist, Sex Counselor, Founder of Loveology University & President of the American College of Sexologists International. Author of 9 books including the upcoming Sexycises by Sexperts: Intimacy Through Yoga, Dr. Ava is also a sought after media therapist & global speaker; her mission is to empower people to overcome sexual guilt & shame so they can enjoy the benefits of healthy, sexual relationships. Find her at


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