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By Eva Sweeney.

Art by Holly-Anne Buck.

Many people, myself included, deal with chronic pain on a regular basis. As a result, we have coping mechanisms to get through our every day. But what about when we want to get down with our partners? How do we talk about chronic pain and sex with someone we’re intimate with? How do we make sex less painful? I’ve got answers for you.

Here are 8 tips on how to navigate sex when you have chronic pain:

1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Before having sex, you should sit down with your partner/s and explain what your chronic pain means to you. Does it vary from day-to-day or is it pretty consistent? Where exactly do you experience pain on your body? How will you let your partner know during sex that you are in pain? This conversation not only helps you feel better, but also puts your partner’s mind at ease because they might be nervous about hurting you. Also, discussing what they can do to help you when you are in pain, if anything, doesn’t hurt. Doing a two-minute check-in right before you have sex is also helpful. You can talk about where your pain level is that day and anything else they might need to know. Checking in while having sex is important as well!

2. Use Props

Pillows, wedges, swings, toys, and more can be used to minimize the pain you experience. Getting in that sweet position where you are very comfortable definitely helps you avoid hurting yourself. Those props also can take the pressure off your body, so there will be fewer chances of you hurting yourself. Also, they can be really fun for your partner too! 

3. Know When to Say, “Not Right Now”

You might really want to have sex, but your body is telling you a different story. If you do have sex you might pay for it later by not being able to get out of bed or being more sore than usual. It really does suck to have to tell your partner, “No” even when you want to say “YES!”, but you have to honor your body and your partner needs to respect that. 

4. Be Open to Taking a Less Active Role

You might usually be the aggressor, but if you’re having more pain that day, telling your partner exactly how to get themselves off can be really fun! You can pick the toy and speed, and then lie next to them and instruct them on how fast to go, etc. This still involves you, but you’re not as physically involved. 

5. Possibly Time Your Sex Around Your Meds

If you know you feel okay for an hour after you take your medication, plan your sex for then! It might not be the most spontaneous thing in the world, but if you know you can enjoy sex more right after your meds, you should try to work with that schedule if you can. 

6. Massages Can Be Really Hot

Having your partner give you a massage as part of foreplay is not only very intimate, but it can help relax your body for the other activities you do! This also lets your partner feel where you’re hurting so they can be mindful of it when you’re having fun!

7. Vulnerability Is Sexy

We, as people with chronic pain, often don’t let people in our everyday life know how much we are hurting. We try to push through the pain and focus on the activities we’re involved in. However, being open and vulnerable with your partner can create a certain amount of intimacy between you two.

8. Sex Might Actually Make You Feel Better!

Having sex releases endorphins which might ease your pain. Obviously sex is not a cure for chronic pain, but it might give you temporary relief. 

Dealing with chronic pain sometimes, frankly, sucks. However, you can still have a good and fulfilling sex life regardless! It just takes a bit of creativity and listening to your body. 

Eva Sweeney is a 36-year-old genderqueer disabled female who works primarily as a sex educator and freelance writer. Her topics include disabilities and sex, gender, and queer culture. She has been doing sex and disability workshops for 15 years and started doing this work because she found a huge lack of good sex-positive information for people with disabilities. Eva wrote the book, “Queers on Wheels” and has traveled the country giving workshops about sex and disability. She continues to give workshops online and in person through “Cripping Up Sex with Eva”, and she is also available for private consultations. Support Eva’s work through Patreon.