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a bird and a bee

Let’s Talk About Sex!

Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory arthritis that primarily affects the spine and hip joints, although it may affect other joints, as well. People with ankylosing spondylitis often experience pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility because of the disease.

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!

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 should 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.

Remember, intimacy can come from simple touch and massage. And you can still give sexual pleasure using oral sex, sex toys, or props.

Tips for enjoying sex when you have AS

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 men 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 under your partner’s pelvis.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.