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The Naked Truth The Sexual Health Blog

8 sex tips for people with disabilities

October 5th, 2011 by Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH

Living with a disability doesn't mean the end of sex

Communication and creativity bring sexual fulfillment to people with disabilities or chronic conditions


by Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH

From muscle weakness to pain and paralysis, disabilities and chronic conditions don’t have to cripple your sex life.

Some impairments directly affect sexual functioning, but there are treatments available. Other conditions may indirectly affect your usual sexual routine, sometimes by messing with your head…but with open communication, a little creativity and the help of adaptive equipment, sexual enjoyment doesn’t have to be elusive. For example…

  • If you’re a guy, talk to your doctor. Disability keeping you down? Whether the cause is neurological, vascular or due to medication side effects, your doctor or urologist can recommend treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED), including oral medications, vacuum pumps, constriction devices (otherwise known as cock rings), penile injections, urethral suppositories…even surgical implants. While you’re at it, ask about the sexual side effects of any medications you may be on, and whether there are any adjustments that can be safely made.
  • If you’re a gal, same deal…talk to your doctor. Feeling all dried up? A disability or chronic condition, or related treatments, can interfere with vaginal lubrication and cause inflamed vaginal tissue. As a result, sex might feel painful…and you might be experiencing vaginal itching, burning, frequent urination, or abnormal discharge to boot. Treatments include over-the-counter vaginal lubricants applied before and during sexual activity, topical estrogen creams or tablets, estrogen releasing vaginal ring, oral estrogen (or hormone replacement therapy) and Replens (applied daily or at other regular intervals independent of sexual activity). And be sure to ask about the sexual side effects of any medications you might be taking, and if any adjustments can be safely made.
  • Don’t discount morning sex or an afternoon delight…schedule sexual activities when symptoms are least problematic and energy is high. The idea of planning when to enjoy sexual activity may seem restrictive…and not very sexy. But working with your body, instead of against it, can result in more and better sex. When we’re tired, fatigued, or in a lot of pain…that’s not the best time to get it on.
  • Timing is everything…take pain or antispasmodic meds before sex. While spontaneous sex can be great, few of us have that luxury…except, perhaps, when we’re on vacation. So as long as we’re planning, take any medication for pain or spasticity well enough in advance (about 30 minutes), so that the full benefits kicked in before you get physical. Taking the edge off the pain and spasticity leaves more room for pleasure.
  • Nothing in, nothing out. Worrying about continence can be a drag…so if sphincter control has been lost or compromised, be sure to empty your bladder and bowels before sexual activity, and avoid a lot of fluids and spicy foods several hours before game time.
  • Avoid extremes of temperature. The only heat of the moment should be the flush of having sex…or the fireplace and warm cozy blankets. Why? Well, depending on your condition, extreme hot or cold can aggravate symptoms.
  • Be creative and get comfortable…experiment with sexual positions and activities that minimize pain and maximize mobility. Fortunately there are some disability-friendly sex products available these days ⎼ from the IntimateRider, designed specifically for people with mobility impairments, to Liberator foam wedges and Velcro Sportsheets to help keep your body in place for maximum function and comfort. Don’t forget to have plenty of pillows around for support, too.
  • Intercourse isn’t the end-all, be-all…other sexual, erotic and intimate activities can be just as fulfilling. Oral sex, mutual masturbation, erotic massage or watching erotica together can all result in delightful pleasures.

Photo: Flickr user Sam Felder, CC 2.0

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