“Certain positions can cause severe pain for many people,” says Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, a New York City-based spinal and orthopedic surgeon, who adds that bending backward or forward can aggravate back pain. “If you arch your back during sex and have spinal stenosis, your back pain will most likely get worse,” he says. “Another scenario is that if you have degenerative disc disease and you bend forward during sex, the pain will also increase.”
“Certain positions can cause severe pain for many people.” —Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, spinal and orthopedic surgeon
And, if you regularly have back pain during sex, it can ultimately become a reason that you start avoiding sex completely. Clearly, that’s not ideal—for you, your partner, or your sex life. Of course, not all sex positions are created equally. Some positions carry a higher-than-usual risk of increasing with your back pain, while others can be no problem. The type of back pain you have matters, too, Dr. Okubadejo says. Even still, “most positions are fine if they are modified,” says sex therapist Debra Laino, DHS.
With that in mind, the pros share the best sex positions for sex pain (and also the worst), plus some general best practices to keep in mind.
2 of the best sex positions to try for back pain
The missionary sex position is one that lets you take it easy on your back—especially if you’re on the bottom. “This sex position keeps the spine in a more neutral position by having the knees and hips slightly flexed, supporting the lower back,” Dr. Okubadejo says. If you’re having discomfort at any point, though, Dr. Laino says to stop.
Dr. Okubadejo says spooning as a sex position is “great” if your back pain tends to get worse when you bend forward. “This position uses minimal spine flexion and is typically comfortable and gentle,” he adds. If the position is not entirely comfortable for you, Dr. Laino suggests propping yourself up a little on your hands to take the weight off your spine, and urging your partner to take it slow.
2 sex positions to avoid if you experience back pain
“Doggy style is bad for people who are extension intolerant,” Dr. Okubadejo says. Meaning, if you experience back pain when you arch your back, being on the receiving end of this position is not for you. This can also be tricky if you’re the one doing the thrusting. “If they are holding too much weight of their partner, it can re-injure the back,” Dr. Laino says.
Anything with hard thrusts
Positions that involve giving or receiving strong thrusts can be jarring for the back because of the intense, repetitive impact, according to Dr. Laino.
More pro tips to minimize back pain during sex
Certain sex devices can be particularly handy in bed when you have back pain, Dr. Laino says. She recommends using tools like a sex wedge pillow (Pillo, $95) to help ease pressure off your back when things heat up. Another option, if you want to get a little more risqué? Look into a sex swing, $29. “Sex swings can actually be beneficial for back pain, because it takes the pressure off,” Dr. Laino says. “Being open about exploring options is really important.”
Taking care of your back before you hop in bed can make a difference, Dr. Okubadejo says. His recommendations:
- Take OTC pain medication beforehand. Ibuprofen or naproxen can help with pain and inflammation during sex. But, before using medication, seek the opinion of a medical professional.
- Slather on pain cream. “Applying an ointment or topical pain cream on the back before sex can also help reduce pain and inflammation,” Dr. Okubadejo says. You can even have your partner incorporate it during foreplay in a sex massage—just have them wash their hands afterward, because you don't want to accidentally apply numbing cream to your genitals, Dr. Laino says. (If you apply it on purpose, that's another story, though.)
- Take a shower first. “A relaxing hot shower can provide short-term pain relief for back pain, reduce inflammation, and relax tense muscles,” Dr. Okubadejo says.
After having sex, consider icing your back to “relieve overstimulation of the muscles,” says Dr. Okubadejo. You can even enlist the help of your partner for a cool-down massage.
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