It's that time of year again, when couples up and down the country a fresh from an evening of romance. Joint pain and arthritis isn't often something that people think about when we talk about Valentine's Day.
If I asked you to imagine the impact that arthritis has on people's lives, you might think about not being able to walk or do exercise, or the impact that it can have on working life. It's unlikely that you'd think about the impact that arthritis can have on people's relationships.
Although there are many different types of arthritis, the common symptoms are pain, stiffness and swelling to the joints. This means that movements many of us take for granted can become unbearably painful. For example if you are living with severe hand osteoarthritis something as simple as holding hands with your partner can be agonising.
The charity, Arthritis Research UK recently commissioned a survey to find out what people think is the secret to keeping a relationship intimate. Holding hands, having a hug, going for a walk or having sex were all listed as important. These are all simple moments of intimacy, yet they are essential to maintaining a healthy relationship.
Our research also showed that we are seeing a general decline in intimacy. People want to have more sex, and hold hands and hug more than they do. The top reasons given for not being intimate included tiredness, not having the time or not being in the mood.
For someone with arthritis who is living with pain and stiffness in their joints, it's not just a matter of finding the time. Imagine how difficult it would be to maintain intimacy with your partner if, having a hug, sleeping next to someone at night or going for a walk was excruciatingly painful.
Catherine Manning aged 33 from Essex, has osteoarthritis. When speaking about the impact it has had on her condition, she said: "As a result of having severe arthritis, I am now bound to a wheelchair and live in constant pain which makes everyday living challenging - especially maintaining intimacy with my husband. Over the past few years, he has gone from being my lover to my full time carer. He helps me in the morning to take my medication, shower and get dressed."
There is hope. For people who are living with arthritis or who are experiencing joint pain there are ways to manage and overcome these issues though. Open communication and listening to each other will help you to become more creative and share ways of overcoming intimacy problems inside and outside of the bedroom.
If you can, plan in advance when you would like to be physically intimate - that way you can rest your body and give yourself time to feel relaxed and ready. People living with chronic pain often experience good and bad days - do it on a good day! Your mood and sex drive is generally greater if you feel fit and active. Exercising will help you keep up your muscle strength and tone and the range of movement in your joints. Your joints may also feel more comfortable after a hot bath or shower -perfect excuse to share one with your partner!
If you are someone who suffers with joint pain, or care for someone who does, you can learn more about how you can maintain and intimate relationship by visiting our website.