What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder. No one knows exactly what causes fibromyalgia to develop, but it’s thought to be associated with:

  • genetics
  • infections
  • physical trauma
  • psychological stress

Fibromyalgia is multi-systemic and involves the:

Fibromyalgia affects women of varying age groups; more than half of women with this condition are under 40 years old. Children and men can develop fibromyalgia as well, though it’s less common.

People with fibromyalgia often have:

  • muscle pain
  • numb and painful limbs
  • fatigue
  • sleep disturbances
  • difficulty concentrating
  • anxiety and depression

In addition to these symptoms, fibromyalgia can also cause sexual side effects that often lead to an overall decrease in sexual activity.

Sexual dysfunction is a side effect of fibromyalgia. Since fibromyalgia is more common in women than men, sexual difficulties are usually associated with women. However, both men and women with fibromyalgia may experience:

  • loss of desire, arousal, and interest in sex
  • decreased frequency of orgasm
  • genital pain

There are a couple main reasons why fibromyalgia leads to sexual dysfunction:

  • People with this illness often experience pain during intercourse.
  • The medications taken to treat this disease commonly have sexually numbing effects.


During sexual intercourse, fibromyalgia might cause muscles around the pelvis and lower back to cramp, causing sharp, uncomfortable pains. For many, the pain of fibromyalgia overrides the pleasure of intercourse. This may lead to a gradual decrease in sexual activity over time. Couples may need to get creative to have satisfying sexual experiences.


The medications that doctors prescribe to treat the painful symptoms of fibromyalgia — such as the antidepressants duloxetine (Cymbalta), milnacipran (Savella), paroxetine (Paxil), and sertraline (Zoloft) — have been known to dampen sexual arousal and the ability to achieve orgasm.

Other causes

Fibromyalgia can also create obstacles to your sex life by:

  • limiting energy levels
  • limiting arousal
  • inspiring negative body image

There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are different approaches you can take to managing symptoms that interfere with sexual activity:

  • Use lubricants to ease physical tension.
  • Experiment with the times that you take your medications so they don’t interfere with arousal for sex.
  • Try different sexual positions that are more considerate of painful muscles.
  • Use manual stimulation or oral sex to experience sexual pleasure.
  • Ask your doctor about hormone treatments — such as supplementing testosterone and estrogen — that are known to help with libido and energy levels.
  • Use massage to help ease nerve-related pain.

The best way to rebuild sexual intimacy with your partner after fibromyalgia is by engaging in open and honest communication about the troubles you are experiencing. Don’t be afraid to speak candidly and work through the difficulties and dissatisfactions common in a relationship affected by illness.

No one knows what causes fibromyalgia or how to cure it. However, this doesn’t have to mean the end of intimacy and sexual pleasure. You should speak to your doctor about treatment options to help work with the sexual side effects of fibromyalgia.

Sexual activity is an integral component of intimacy and love, and with special care and planning you can minimize the sexual side effects of fibromyalgia and improve your quality of life. With patience, a willingness to try different approaches, and a supportive partner, you may find a way to enjoy the pleasures of sexual intimacy once again.