Yoga, sex, chronic pain – three seemingly unrelated topics. Yet it turns out there may just be a connection after all.
Fact: Long-term use of opioid pain relievers is known to often result in hormonal abnormalities, including reduced testosterone levels in both men and women, which can lead to sexual dysfunction.
Fact: Studies have shown yoga to be effective in reducing pain levels for a number of chronic pain conditions, such as chronic low back pain and fibromyalgia.
Fact: Scientists in Russia and India have reportedly documented that yoga can cause a rise in testosterone levels and increase blood flow to the genitals.
Can those three facts be tied together to conclude that yoga may help improve sexual function for people who must take opioids for a long period of time? Not necessarily. There would need to be specific studies done training chronic pain patients on opioid therapy in yoga then measuring their testosterone levels and their reports of changes in sexual function. But it is an interesting idea to consider.
What got me started thinking about this possible connection was an article in the New York Times about Yoga and Sex Scandals. Apparently the founder of a particular style of yoga has been accused of sexual impropriety with some of his female students. The article went on to say that most people don't realize that Hatha yoga, from which the styles currently practiced originated, began as a branch of Tantric sex cults. The author also mentioned studies showing sharp rises in testosterone and increased blood flow to the genitals from yoga.
That article came out on Monday. On Tuesday, MedPage Today reported on a study showing that intractable pain patients on long-term, high doses of opioids tended to have hormonal abnormalities, including surpressed testosterone. After reading that, I couldn't help but wonder whether there might be a link.
Is it possible that yoga might improve sexual function for people on long-term opioid therapy? I don't have an answer for that question. But since yoga has been found to be beneficial for some chronic pain conditions, it might be worth discussing with your doctor.
Additional information on yoga and pain you may be interested in:
Yoga Is Accessible to Those Living with Pain
Why Yoga May Soothe Many Types of Chronic Pain