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:
- 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.
- 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.
(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.
- What Could Be Hurting Your Sex Life (everydayhealth.com)
- Libido Supplements and Vitamins for Sex – Do They Work? (everydayhealth.com)
Was it the melatonin? Was it the Pilates class (and in case you’re wondering, yes! OW again!)? Was it the afternoon meditation session? Was it babysitting Z for a couple of hours? Was it taking my Lyrica earlier? Was it a mixture of CoQ10, Alpha Lipoic Acid and Eleuthera Root? Was it all my sex and fibromyalgia research? Was it because I had such a bad night’s sleep the night before?
Was it a mixture of all of the above and more?
See? That’s the problem – as FM sufferers, if we hear about something that helps another sufferer, we try it. Nothing wrong with that.*
If we hear about a multitude of things that help, we try them all. Nothing wrong with that.*
The problem arises when we try to work out what actually helps us, and what just happens to be coincidental… You won’t find me having a month in which I take melatonin, then stop to take only the Pilates class for a month, then do a month of Pilates AND melatonin, etc. and recording each result in a methodical and scientific way. I did try this for a short time – but I don’t have the time to waste. I want to feel better NOW!
If something helps some-one, I’m going to try it ASAP – don’t you? If I spent a month trying each ‘remedy’ alone, then a month doing them in pairs, then a month…any-one good at equations?
And, ultimately, it wouldn’t actually help… Somewhere along the line, I would have a night where I slept 10 hours – but this couldn’t be applied to anyone else because, as we all know, everyone’s fibromyalgia experience is different. Lucky us!
My point: don’t give up looking for what might work for you – it might be alternative and wacky, but it might work!
And don’t envy my 10 hours sleep – I woke up still wanting more!
* As long as we consult the appropriate health professional first!
P.S. Can you tell I’m trying to avoid doing the clothes washing? How many posts is that today?
It’s been a long, exhausting day. It’s only 9pm, but you feel like it’s 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 they want to make love, but all you can do is stare at them in shock.
Do you NOT know how I’m feeling?
Decreased sexual interest is not 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 for an individual with FM, making it difficult to engage in certain sexual behaviours.
Sex eventually becomes 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. So, who can be bothered?
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 one’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 they 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 boosting well-being. This double-sided sword is that while sex can relieve symptoms of FM, like pain and depression, FM itself results in a decreased libido, fatigue and pain that hinder the individual’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 regiment 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!
- 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!
N.B. This whole post (and the research involved) developed from me wanting to tell you about the new thongs/g-strings now available in my shop. However, as I looked into it more, it became increasingly difficult to ask if you were feeling unapologetically naughty. Hmm – obviously, I did anyway.
- Health Benefits of Sex (dudendiva.wordpress.com)
Yesterday, I downloaded my FREE 14 day pass to the local gym (which is very local – it’s about 500 metres down the street!) and went to have a chat to a lovely lady about my condition and what her gym could do for me. We talked about the yoga and Pilates sessions; and we talked about what would happen after the 14 days was up. (I had to explain that I was absolutely broke and had to be very careful about where I chose to invest my limited funds.) Firstly, she gave me an extra week on my pass. Then she said that, if I find the classes are working for me, she could work out a special price so I could attend just those classes and not have to pay for the use of the entire gym. WOW! Nice lady!
Getting out of bed early, so my body will be functioning (not necessarily well), for a 9.20am Pilates class is not easy, but I’m motivated and I promised you guys a report…
So, I just got out of the shower (yes! I had a shower) after cooling down from the session. And I gotta say: Whoo Eee! (that’s a shout of glee!)Am I feeling energised! Already my muscles ache – but it’s a different sensation than the FM pain. It’s the pleasurable awareness that all my muscles are there and have been stretched and manipulated. (For those who don’t have sex very often, it’s sort of like the day after feeling…yeah, you feel tired and achy but hey! It was worth it and let’s do it again!)
We did Mat-based Pilates (not so easy to get up off the floor at the end, though) – this is a series of exercises performed on the floor using gravity and your own body weight to provide the resistance. The central aim is to condition the deeper, supporting muscles of the body to improve posture, balance and coordination. By focusing on your core strength, you (supposedly) enhance the little muscles in the body so you’re better able to support the larger ligaments, tendons and joints. Pilates is a very intense stretching class that incorporates workouts for your abdominal, leg, arm and back muscles – I found the stretching remarkable (it was like my poor, exhausted muscles could finally open up and take a breath of fresh air) and it’s nice to know that I still have some flexibility. Strength-wise? I have none! Anything that involved holding up my own body – even standing on my tippy-toes – was challenging. But it’s only the beginning of my learning curve…
Pilates encourages you to think about how you perform everyday movements. It heightens your body awareness; it helps you ensure your body is working at its optimal level all the time. Pilates will give you more of a holistic result than most other exercises regimes. It will make you focus on your breathing which is great for improving circulation and relieving stress. It is alleged to be a fantastic way to balance out your health and wellbeing.
Pilates is actually great for people with injuries, weak muscles and particularly bad posture because it encourages you to strengthen your problem areas in a relaxed and low impact way. (NB: It is advisable that anyone with serious injuries consults their doctor or physio though. Pregnant women should also get the okay from their doctor before proceeding.)
Now, tomorrow (or maybe even later on today) I know I’m going to hurt – I’m hoping it is the spent muscle type of hurt and not the FM hurt (but I may be kidding myself – I’ll let you know then).
But I’ll know exactly who to blame: Joseph Pilates developed the yoga-like moves to rehabilitate Second World War soldiers. He then modified the style for injured dancers and so the modern-day method was born.
I’m looking after the beautiful Z tomorrow too, so I had better not hurt too much – playing with Z involves at least one walk to the park and a lot of kicking (then chasing) a ball around. I then have hydrotherapy so the warm water will soothe my tired, spent, exhausted, weary, drained, fatigued, wiped out body.
From just sitting on the couch last week, I‘ve suddenly got a REALLY busy schedule!
He didn’t die. I didn’t have to unplug him or anything as sad as that…
Having been inspired by another person’s blog, I have decided that I need to allow a ‘friend’ of mine to leave.
He (let’s call him Sam) has been trying to ditch me for a while but I have kept chasing him. Let’s start at the beginning:
Six years ago, Sam used to work where I used to work. He was (and is) 12 years younger than me. (Did anyone say Cougar?) We had a friends-with-benefits kind of relationship. We didn’t have very much in common but I really enjoyed the sex (can I say that on this page?). It fizzled out. He got engaged; but we would send each other a text every now and then.
Fast forward to 6 months ago. I sent a friendly text and it continued into a full-blown texting conversation which continued over a couple of days. He was no longer engaged (alarm bells should have gone off then!) We met up. We had sex – still pretty good, not exceptional and, I hadn’t had any sex in over 4 years (since before depression invaded my life).
Well, that was it. I had been fine for 4 years but, now that I’d had some physical contact, I wanted more! So, texting every night (no phone calls – just texting), trying to work out a time that would fit, and Sam being too busy (more alarm bells, right?).
Almost exactly a month later, sex again. This time he let me know that it was his fiancé who called off the wedding (can you hear anything above the noise of those bloody bells?). This was my friend and he was hurting. I knew how that felt. I wanted to help. I scheduled inspirational quotes to his phone every morning. I checked up on how he was doing. I made sure he was surviving.
Guess what? A month later (is there a pattern happening here?), we had sex again! THEN he told him that he thought he wasn’t prepared to continue our ‘relationship.’ Ok, fine – end of sex. I deleted his name from my contact list so I could restrain myself from texting (addictive behaviour, do you think?)
Then he sent me a text – he was back on my phone. Yes, we had sex.
Yes, it happened. Yes, afterwards he suggested we put a brake on our ‘relationship’ again. And yes, a month after that, we had sex (again)! Then we had dinner together – we still had absolutely nothing in common, I noticed.
Some more texting, some more trying to work out a time that would fit, and some more of Sam being too busy (is anyone getting bored here?). Then all of a sudden, I got a phone call! This never happens – what the hell? He needed my professional help. I gave it to him and, after it was all over, we had sex!
After my Valentine’s Day surprise went awry (he doesn’t like surprises it seems), he only replied to my texts with passive aggression (I never knew what that meant until now) and then he stopped answering all together.
WOW! that was a lot longer than it should have been.
But there it is – my friendship with Sam! Now I bet you’re saying ‘What are you talking about? That wasn’t a friendship!’ and, after I read it back to myself, I agree and think how very needy I am. But I think I was confused – I thought, as I had known this person for 6 years, that he was a friend.
I was wrong (it’s taken me this long to reach this conclusion – it probably took you about 5 seconds). During this time, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia – did you notice that there was no reference to that in the above story? And no mention that I had to stop working? And no hint that, during this time, I was unable to sleep, suffered debilitating headaches (did you know that, despite the myth, sex actually helps headaches?) and was house-bound? That would be because there was no support forthcoming from Sam.
Now, I don’t have a lot of friends (that is NOT a not-so-subtle request for people to ‘friend’ me on Facebook – it’s just a fact). They seem to disappear from my life. Unlike my brother, I don’t have any friends that I’ve known since kindergarten. I know I try – perhaps I try too hard?
But I still don’t know why I was so intent on maintaining Sam’s ‘friendship’? I wouldn’t have laboured so hard if he was female (a very woeful thing to say, I know). The sex wasn’t THAT great, there were no common interests and we didn’t share any friends; but I couldn’t just let it die a natural death. I persisted in texting – I knew that I could wear down his resolve; but why should I? Why was I willing to allow him to treat me this way? And why was I prepared to degrade myself so much that I was almost begging him to visit me? Is it something to do with needing a man to be complete?
Anyway, the point of this very rambling post – I no longer text Sam, Sam is not in my phone anymore; and we, obviously, have no sort of relationship. It’s time to let this toxic friendship go.