Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coping with Numbness and Decreased Genital Sensation

Genital numbness how to cope…

Did you know that over 80% of men and women with MS are effected by sexual and intimacy problems? This is not surprising when you consider that one third of women in the general population cannot achieve orgasm with penetrative sex when there is no clitoral stimulation. One of the more pressing issues for both men and women with MS or other neurological disorders is a loss of sensation, not only in their limbs but also in their genital area. So how does one cope with this loss of sensation and maintain a healthy sexual relationship with their partner?

I have said it before and I will say it again; there is a lot more to an intimate relationship than sex. That being said, there are some things you can do by yourself or with a partner to keep your relationship on track when those numbness issues arise. I have gotten advice from several people on this topic and I would like to thank each of them for their input.

Some things to consider:

Talk to your doctor- This is easier said than done, but like your other MS symptoms you should be able to talk to your doctor or nurse about sexual problems you are having. Believe me, there is nothing you can say that they have not heard before, especially an MS specialist. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications or change the dosage on your current medications that may be aggravating your sexual symptoms. Certain medications, especially anti-depressants are notorious for not only decreasing your sex drive but also decreasing you ability to achieve orgasm. Seizure medications that are often prescribed for hypersensitivity can also lead to numbness in genital areas. Sometimes it is just a matter of changing the time you take certain medications. Your doctor is an invaluable tool for your wellbeing and sexual health.

Toys, Vibrators, Clitoral Stimulators- There are so many sex toys on the market today, each designed for different purposes and needs. Vibrators work wonders for loss of sensation especially this meant for external stimulation such has clitoral stimulators. There has also been a boom in the industry for toys geared towards helping men achieve orgasm; from oral sex replicators to prostate massagers and vibrating rings. Toys come in so many shapes, sizes, colors, and materials that I can honestly say there is something for everybody out there. One that I highly recommend to almost everyone is to try a vibrating cock ring with a clit stimulator. It is a toy that is used together, the vibrations are an added stimulation for both you and your partner.

Lubricants- There are many types of lubricants on the market today. From water based, to oil based, scented, edible, or even warming gels. The latter have been shown to be effective for those who still respond who hot and cold even though there may be a loss of sensation or numbness. For those who suffer a loss of sensation or have a hard time achieving orgasm, lubricants can help reduce friction during intercourse making penetration more enjoyable.

Oral Sex- Some people, especially women find that oral sex is more pleasurable than penetration when they are experiencing loss of sensation or numbness due to increased focus on their outer genitals and clitoris. Mints and those Listerine strips make for great fun in the oral sex dept and help increase sensitivity. Some novelty companies go so far to sell mints specifically manufactured to be used during oral sex. Ice can also come in handy during oral sex.

Ice or Heat- Can be used to help increase sensitivity also. A lot of times, when there is numbness in an area there is still a sensation with hot and cold. Try alternating and see what works best for you. This is when I would recommend trying some of the liquid filled E-Glass toys that can be placed in the freezer or in hot water to change the temperature. There are also some amazing vibrators that include infrared heat, which give you both the heat and multi-speed vibration for added pleasure.

Electrical Stimulation- One of the newer toys that recently peaked my interest was one a friend inquired about called the Violet Wand. It is almost like a tesla ball for your sensitive areas. It looks quite interesting, but it is very expensive. There are much less expensive options out there from TENS type of units to electric anal plugs. These have proven to be very effective for a lot of people, but be advised there risks associated when you bring electricity into the bedroom. Be sure to read the risks and take the necessary precautions as advised by the manufacturer.

Kegel Exercises- Kegel Exercises work great for keeping your pelvic floor or PC muscles toned, and they are not just for women. Men can also benefit from toning their pelvic floor muscles. The muscle is similar in both men and women, stretching from the pubic bone to the tail bone and forming a hammock-like floor that supports the organs of the pelvis and contributes to the function of the sphincter muscles. Kegel exercises have multiple uses for men and women. They are most commonly recommended to help with bladder and bowel control. Keeping your PC muscles tones will also help alleviate menstrual cramps, and ease childbirth. Sex can be more enjoyable by both parties as the toned muscles will contract better during sex making it feel “tighter” for the man and also giving stronger contractions during orgasm for a woman. For men, Kegel exercises aid in achieving an erection and can also help prevent premature ejaculation, as well as helping to maintain prostate help. The exercises are easy to do and can be completed anywhere at anytime. I will go into more detail about the importance and proper way to exercise your Kegel muscles in my next article.

Body exploration- Just because you may be numb below the belt, that does not mean that there are not other places on your body which would be pleasurable to touch. The best way to do this is to explore one another’s body. A fun game would be to blindfold your partner and caress different areas of their body with different textures (like feathers or a hair brush). This may be a good time to play with heat and ice. Use your hands or mouth to explore one another. You find sensitive areas you may have forgotten about over the years. Relax and have fun.

Changing positions- Some positions give greater access to more sensitive areas of your body. One that was recommended was to try placing a pillow or wedge under your hips to elevate your genitals during intercourse. Another recommendation was to hang your head over the side of the bed (not really sure how that works to help achieve a better orgasm, but what the hay?). Sometimes all it takes is a quick flip or a tilt of the hips to reach that coveted orgasm that lurks behind the numb outer shell.