Want better sex? Consider getting a new hip or knee.
Before Mary Ann Oklesson, a Manhattan magazine publisher, had both hips replaced a few years ago, the pain of arthritis made it difficult to walk, exercise or even climb into a taxi. Her failing hips had also taken a toll on her sex life.
"Sex was somewhat painful," said Oklesson, now in her early 60s. "You have to be more cautious. If I had to pick my leg up to put it in a cab, you can imagine what sex was like. I just wasn't quite as nimble."
But all of that changed after hip replacement surgery. "It definitely improved my quality of life, and my love life," she says.
While researchers have long known that hip and knee replacement leads to less pain and improved mobility, new research shows that the surgery offers an unexpected bonus in the bedroom. Among 147 patients who had joint replacement surgery in New York, most said arthritis had interfered with their sex lives, according to research presented last month at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. After surgery, 81 percent of those patients who had said their sex lives had suffered as a result of a bad joint reported that their frequency of sexual activity had increased.
Many reported an increase in libido and stamina and an improvement in their ability to climax. The benefits were especially pronounced among patients whose complaint had been failing hips, as well as women, who reported the most discomfort during sex because of painful joints.
Hip replacement surgery has risen 85 percent in the past decade, with doctors performing more than 300,000 procedures in 2010, the latest year for which statistics are available. Much of the increase has been fueled by active middle-aged adults, 45 to 65. In that age group, hip replacements have nearly tripled to 128,000 during the same period.
Dr. Claudette Lajam, an orthopedic surgeon at the Center for Musculoskeletal Care at NYU Langone Medical Center, said that so many patients have questions about intimacy after joint replacement that she added a page to her website devoted to sex.
"That page gets the most hits of any page on my website," Lajam said. "There are a lot of people who get back out there, or get closer to their spouse, because they've been unable to participate in that intimacy for a while. Just the relief of pain itself improves the relationship."