a bird and a bee

Let's Talk About Sex!

Last updated: November 2022

With a chronic illness like ankylosing spondylitis, sex might be hard. The pain and stiffness from your disease might make you feel less than sexy. AS progresses differently for different people. For some, AS symptoms can make enjoying a healthy sex life challenging. But that definitely doesn’t mean you have to give up on intimacy! It just means you might need to get a little more creative.

Intimacy can be more than intercourse

One of the first steps if intercourse becomes difficult or you or your partner don’t get aroused easily is to realize that intimacy and pleasure can be much more than intercourse.

You and your partner can talk about your experience, including your limitations, fears, and hopes. It’s important to maintain open communication during this time and to talk about sex using a collaborative, problem-solving approach. Try to withhold judgment and let your partner speak freely, as they should do the same for you. Speaking openly about your hopes and fears can make you feel open with your partner and create a sense of closeness before you even touch.

Remember, intimacy can come from simple touch and massage. Try gently stroking your partner's arm. And remember you can still give sexual pleasure using oral sex, sex toys, or props.

Sex and intimacy tips for ankylosing spondylitis

Think of AS as an opportunity to get creative with your sex life rather than an obstacle. Here are some pointers for getting the most out of your sex life and for maintaining intimacy in your relationship:

Treat your symptoms.

You will feel better, have less pain and more mobility when you treat your AS. Be sure to discuss any signs of depression or anxiety with your healthcare team. Both mental health conditions are more common with AS than among people without the disease. And either condition alone can affect your desire and sexual satisfaction.

Emphasize touch.

People with chronic illness can sometimes withdraw and feel less connected to others or less desirable. Simple touch can convey affection and fondness and help you and your partner reconnect and rekindle your intimacy.

Try to maintain physical activity.

Keeping your body as limber and fit as possible will help you feel better and will help your sense of positivity and outlook. Both physical and mental health are important in maintaining an enjoyable sex life. Even though you're in pain, exercise can help your body feel better with AS. Try going for just a short walk or doing a few stretches to reconnect with your body.

Vary your position.

Experiment with different positions that are more comfortable or work better for you and your partner. Try sitting, standing, using cushions or special furniture designed to support sex for people with physical limitations. For people with lower back pain, lying flat might be uncomfortable. Try sitting in a chair with your partner in your lap. Or, you can stand or kneel on the edge of the bed with cushions or pillows under your partner’s pelvis.

Create a romantic atmosphere.

Lighting candles, playing romantic music, or using scented oils can all help create a sensual mood that enhances your sense of connection and intimacy.

Try toys and cushions.

Toys, vibrators, and other devices to increase pleasure can help you enjoy a creative, satisfying sex life. Lubrication can also enhance sex for both partners.

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