anonymous on September 8, 2011

How can I enjoy sexual activity with my motor-nerve disease?

I have a motor-nerve disease. It causes spasticity in my legs and hands, and it makes sex too labor intensive to enjoy. Do you know of anything that might help?

answered by Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH on September 8, 2011

Thanks for your question. I can certainly understand how a motor neuron disease (MND) can present a challenge in many aspects of your life, and I’m happy to offer you my best thoughts on your condition.

As you know, MNDs have one thing in common: they affect the neurons responsible for movement which, in turn, can cause sexual problems.

For example, in one study,researchers from the Department of Neurology at Munich University Hospital found that the majority of people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) and their partners had a lower interest in sex and less sexual activity after the diagnosis than before.

Although sexual functioning typically isn’t affected by MND, weakness in the arms and legs and/or spasticity, as you noted, can make many sexual positions exhausting. Other people with MNDs also have a negative body image, or trouble with depression and communication…all of which can further affect their sexuality.

The good news is that there are a number of considerations that could make sex more enjoyable with MND. Depending on the stage of your disease, creativity in the bedroom can help. A knowledgeable, sex-positive physical therapist or occupational therapist might also offer you some good ideas about what could work best for you.

For starters, here are some ideas that you and your partner might want to try:
  • Experiment with different positions.Because you mention spasms in your hands, try positions that take the weight off your arms and hands. Your partner could be on top, or try sitting and facing each other. You may also find it helpful to use pillows, chairs, or other props to provide support for you and your partner.
  • Consider new ways to be intimate. In addition to ⎼ or in place of ⎼ trying new positions, you and your partner may find that other intimate activities (kissing, massage, cuddling, caressing) can help you both feel connected.
  • Incorporate relaxing elements into sex. Add massage and soothing caresses into your sexual activity to calm your muscles and give them a chance to relax. You could also take a warm shower before (or during) sex.
  • Be open with your partner. One of the most important aspects of sex with MND is communicating what you can and can’t do, which can help both partners continue to feel loved, trusted and wanted.
These are just a few possible suggestions. TheMotor Neuron Disease Association also offers resources for people with MND...including adownloadable information sheet on sex and relationships.

Thanks again for writing, and I wish you sexual fulfillment as you continue to adapt to living with a MND.

Related info:

Mitchell Tepper, PhD, MPH

Dr. Tepper directs sexual health education at An AASECT-certified sexuality educator and counselor, his areas of expertise include sexual dysfunctions, sexuality following disability or illness, pleasure and orgasm, relationships, and military and veteran couples' counseling. Dr. Tepper was educated at the University of Pennsylvania and Yale University.

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