Sex and Back Pain: How to Have One While You Have the Other 

There are a lot of reasons couples argue, common topics are money, family, and sometimes even sex.  When it comes to intimacy, this can be aggravated when one partner has pain. Often individuals who experience back pain during sex often feel like they fail to meet their partners’ sexual expectations. The partner without pain may feel rejected by the avoidance of intimacy, and eventually both partners end up frustrated and feeling misunderstood. As professionals in health and rehabilitation field, we want to share the results of many, many conversations and tell you that “you’re not alone!”

First note, the following is not medical advice – if you have undiagnosed back pain, please see your doctor first. Once you understand your back condition, then this may help clarify why certain positions exacerbate symptoms and which positions might be better choices for you and your partner.

Here are some suggestions that can help you enjoy a pain-free experience:

Facet joint & degenerative disc problems are usually more painful when the back is arched.  If you are lying on your back bring your knees up and support your lower back with pillows or a towel.  Or have both you and your partner kneel, with them in front and you behind.

Sacroiliac, or SI, joint problems can be less painful when bending one leg, usually the leg on the painful side.  Side-lying positions, either facing or from behind, can allow for the leg to be bent and supported either by pillows or by your partner.

Herniated or bulging discs are irritated by forward bending.  Try positions that help you arch your back. Using pillows or towels to support a natural arch is fine.  Your partner can straddle you in kneeling or sitting positions, and some people can still tolerate missionary position, as supporting your body weight on your arms will often maintain a healthy arch in your back.

Back health can be maintained with a specialized exercise program. Strengthening lower abdominals and pelvic floor muscles are fantastic foundational ways to overcome your back pain and improve your sex life! For personalized help strengthening your back (for ALL of life’s activities), talk to your doctor and find out if a tailored core strengthening program with a kinesiologist can help get you feeling stronger and confident to take on the day!

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