Sexual health is often negatively affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA), but rarely discussed between patients and health care professionals. Experienced reasons for decreased sexual health vary among patients, but pain, stiffness, reduced mobility, fatigue and negative feelings towards one's own body are common factors. In addition to negative effects experienced to be due to RA, there are also negative influences on sexual health by other factors, such as insufficient physical activity, low self-esteem, depression and stressful influences in life.
Physiotherapy is a common intervention for patients with RA and patients have reported improved sexual health due to physiotherapy. Regular physiotherapy interventions for patients with RA often include coaching towards increasing physical activity levels, hydrotherapy, pain reductive treatment and mobility exercises, both individually and in groups. The physiotherapy interventions leading to improved sexual health (according to patients with RA) has been regular interventions for patients with RA and not specifically aimed at enhancing sexual health. The patients do seldom describe that the physiotherapist has informed them of how physiotherapy might enhance sexual health, but they have themselves experienced how physiotherapy has improved their sexual life.
Patients describe that they experience joy, increased self-esteem and a more positive approach to their body, when participating in physiotherapy and that this positive feeling is affecting their life, including their sexual life. They also describe how increased physical capacity reduces fatigue and increases their capacity to engage in valued life activities, including sexual activities.
The way that the physiotherapist can further enhance sexual health, is by informing the patient of how sexual health is linked to experienced symptoms of RA and how physiotherapy interventions, for example increasing physical activity, can enhance also sexual health.
Disclosure of Interest None declared