Masturbating: Good for the Soul, Libido and Chronic Pain

Patient Expert
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When you live with a condition that causes chronic pain, the pain, fatigue, and challenges of living with chronic illness can interfere with your sex life, including masturbation. How do you love yourself when your whole body hurts too much to move?

Note: this post, as well as the sites linked herein, use frank language and images about sex and sex aids. Consider it not safe for work.

Why masturbate?

Are you feeling all shy about this topic? That’s totally normal. We may talk about intimacy with a partner, but rarely about what we do to pleasure ourselves. And yet, up to 95 percent of men and 89 percent of women have masturbated. It can be an important part of sexual health.

Masturbation is good for you in several ways. Masturbating and having an orgasm releases dopamine, which decreases stress. Other beneficial effects is an increased heart rate, helping your heart stay in shape if your ability to exercise is limited, helping a sluggish libido to increase, and it can also help you fall asleep!

But that’s not all! Being good to yourself this way can have surprisingly beneficial effects for people who live with chronic pain. Being reminded that your body can be a source of pleasure, not just pain, can be incredibly important to your sense of self-worth and outlook on life. As well, orgasm releases endorphins, natural opiates that can help you manage pain.

What’s not to love?

Well, what’s not to love is the pain that may be involved with the way you move in order to get to that release. Rapid and repetitive hand and arm movements, combined with closing your hand tightly (for the guys out there), is often not something your chronic pain will accept. Pain gets in the way, as does limited movements. Maybe it’s simply too hard to reach.

So what’s a frisky person to do? In Taiwan, the charity Hand Angels provides people with disabilities with hand jobs (yes, really). Interesting factoid aside, you have access to a world of sex toys. Also known as sex aids or sex tools— whichever term you prefer.

Toys and tools for masturbating with chronic pain

Sex aids for men usually start with a cylindrical sleeve, which can make it easier to get a grip on your penis. There is a vast number of variations on the sleeve. You can get something extremely basic, or splurge on tools shaped like a vulva, face, or rear end, some of which even look and feel remarkably natural. Some also include suction or vibration.

Handheld vibrators may also help guys get in the mood, and can be used on the entire body, not just on the penis. Using anal plugs may stimulate the prostate gland, which can provide intense pleasure for men.

Sex aids for women include dildos and vibrators. Some look like extremely life-like penises, sometimes of significant girth and length, others take different shapes. If you have contractures, or have limited strength, look for something light and long. No-hands vibrators include the butterfly and vibrating panties, offering a variety of sensations that can get you going.

Selecting a vibrator can be an overwhelming experience. There are so many choices. If you live in an area with a sex shop, go for a visit to check out the many different toys, and talk to the sales clerk. Most of these stores have very knowledgeable staff who can help you make your selection in a way that feels safe and only a little awkward.

Tip: vibrators have different speeds and intensity. A good way to measure if a particular vibrator is good for you is by letting it buzz on the space between your nose and upper lip.

If you feel more comfortable shopping in the comfort and privacy of your home, there are a plethora of websites selling sexual tools. Do some research first by talking to friends and reading reviews to get a sense of what might work. For instance, a community source who would like to remain anonymous, describes The Eroscillator as a little unwieldy, but life-changing, creating guaranteed orgasms on a level she didn't know were possible. As well, if you have trouble with a low libido, products like the Fiera can help warm you up.

Learning more

There is very little arthritis-related information on what to do when you have chronic pain and want to get off. Thankfully, sex stores and sites are very well aware that their customers include people with functional limitations.

As an example, the site Good Vibrations includes a shopping guide for people with disabilities, with resources and suggestions for a variety of tools for both men and women. Another site, Come As You Are (Canadian, but ships internationally), indicates which of their toys are disability friendly and features a number of articles related to sex and disability, and adapting sex tools.

For your reading pleasure, doing a Google search brought me to a review of accessible sex toys. You may also want to invest in an excellent book called The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. This is just scratching the surface of what’s available. Do a bunch of research yourself and have fun with it!

Every person is different, both in terms of what turns them on and gets them off, and how their chronic pain affects their ability to masturbate. If it’s difficult for you, don’t let this part of your life slide away. You deserve having something in your life that makes you feel good. Remember that masturbating is uniquely capable of helping with the challenges your condition creates, such as inability to sleep and pain. Getting to know your body in a context of pleasure instead of pain can be so important to living well with chronic illness.

See More Helpful Articles:

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How to Have Satisfying Sex despite Chronic Pain

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When Satisfied Biologics Are Not Enough: Satisfying Sex with Rheumatoid Arthritis

Lene writes the award-winning blog The Seated View. She’s the author ofYour Life with Rheumatoid Arthritis: Tools for Managing Treatment, Side Effects and Pain and 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain.