Don’t Let RA Pain Throw a Wrench in Your Relationships

Whether you’re with your friends, family or loved ones, these tips will help ensure good times even when you’re enduring joint pain, fatigue and irritability.

Maxine Rock
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Sometimes, it’s challenging to keep rheumatoid arthritis (RA) from interfering with intimacy, family fun and friendships. But when joint pain, fatigue and irritability make it harder to connect, here’s how to help ensure a good time.

When you’re with your honey

  • Stoke desire with dinner à deux. Sure, you’ve heard oysters are an aphrodisiac, but that’s not why it’s smart to pile them on your plate. Along with salmon, spinach, walnuts and strawberries, they’re rich in anti-inflammatories that can help ease sore joints. And go ahead and drizzle another aphrodisiac, dark chocolate, over those berries: It’s packed with catechin and epicatechin, pain-easing chemicals.
  • Make a toast to love. Cheers! A recent Swiss study of nearly 3,000 people suggests moderate drinking may stall the progress of RA, while an English study found it reduces joint pain. Researchers credit alcohol’s ability to suppress the immune response that triggers swelling. What’s moderate? About three drinks a week.
  • Warm up your love life. To make lovemaking as comfy as possible, toss sheets into the dryer before sex. Ditto for pajamas and nightgowns. Rub scented baby oil into aching joints to smooth the way to intimacy.
  • Position yourself for passion. Sally Wendkos Olds, author of The Eternal Garden: Seasons of Our Sexuality, says arthritis, even when coupled with advancing age, cannot dim the ardor of willing partners. The proof? Olds interviewed a 77-year-old woman with arthritis who confided that after much experimenting, she found the missionary position most satisfying.

When you’re with your kids or grandkids

  • Perform a pre-kid warm-up. Before joining the kids, do some light exercise, such as walking. Also, use either an ice pack or a warm compress on aching joints (cold reduces inflammation while heat soothes pain, so experiment to see which one works better for you).
  • Get moving with walking sticks. Keep up with your active grandkids by getting a pair of lightweight walking sticks from a sporting-goods store. A 70-year-old hiking enthusiast from Atlanta says the sticks relieve pressure on her joints and improve her balance. What’s more, her grandkids think they’re cool. Most walking sticks have pointed ends for trail hiking, plus removable rubber tips to guard against slippage on slick indoor surfaces. If you lose the tips, simply wrap duct tape around the ends.
  • Get everyone into the pool. A woman in Tampa invites her grandchildren to join her in a heated gym pool. When that’s impractical, she uses bath toys in a warm-water tub to play with the little ones. “They even make a game out of rubbing Grandma’s hands,” she says. “And they compete to see who can help me with chores, because my hands can still give out candy.”
July 2012