"Go home and make love as needed."
Has your doctor ever given you that prescription?
No, I thought not. But for the estimated 35 million American adults with osteoarthritis, the most common form of joint pain, such a cure makes perfect sense: Sex is surprisingly good for the joints.
When people say "arthritis," they usually mean osteoarthritis (OA), which typically results from decades of wear and tear.
Healthy joints are lined with shock-absorbing cartilage, whose job is to keep your bones from grinding into one another. In osteoarthritis, by contrast, cartilage breaks down, causing stiffness and pain, possibly swelling, and reduced range of motion.
Symptoms are worse in the morning.
Osteoarthritis risk increases with age, weight, a history of joint injury and repetitive strain — frequent use of a computer keyboard being the prime culprit.
To manage OA, doctors advise low-impact exercise that gently moves joints through their full range of motion: walking, gardening, swimming, biking, in-pool calisthenics — and sex.
"Sex is terrific for people with arthritis," says Palo Alto sex therapist Marty Klein, Ph.D. "Sex involves gentle, range-of-motion exercise, which minimizes pain and inflammation. It also releases endorphins, the body's natural pain relievers. Sex strengthens the muscles around the joints, which helps support them. And it's mood-elevating, which likewise helps alleviate pain."
Test-drive these suggestions for the best arthritis relief from sex.
Before You Have Sex
1. Make sex dates. Living with any chronic condition requires lifestyle adjustments and planning. Scheduling sex allows you to prepare in advance, perhaps with gentle stretching. It can also allow you to make love at a time of day (afternoons or evenings, say) when your symptoms cause less discomfort.
2. Exercise beforehand. Physical activity is a great way to manage OA. Take a walk together, go dancing or be active in any fashion you both enjoy. A fringe benefit: Being active together nonsexually before making love deepens emotional intimacy.