Back pain and sex — not two subjects that are usually paired together. Talking about how back pain can affect one’s sex life has often been taboo; however, it’s important to discuss how lower back pain can disrupt sexual relationships and affect intimacy between couples. Back pain during sex is a major issue for many people and is more common than patients and physicians think. 72% of sexually active respondents reported they had sex less frequently than before their back pain began(Source:https://www.spineuniverse.com/conditions/back-pain/back-pain-its-impact-sexual-satisfaction). Sex is an important part of healthy relationships; thus, it’s a good idea to learn which positions are best for back pain.
We spoke to Dr. Gbolahan Okubadejo, NYC area Orthopedic and Spinal Surgeon to discuss tips for dealing with back pain during sex.
1. Extension intolerant women
People who are extension intolerant will have back pain that is aggravated by extension movements such as arching the back. Therefore, women who are extension intolerant should avoid doggy style. Missionary position is a preferable position because women can keep their spine in a more neutral position by having their knees and hips slightly flexed, supporting the lower back.
2. Extension intolerant men
Missionary or spooning are more comfortable sex positions for extension intolerant men because they allow the back to stay flat. The doggy style position will exacerbate back pain for extension intolerant men because it forces them to flex and extend the spine; therefore, this position should be avoided.
3. Flexion intolerant women
People who are flexion intolerant experience pain in the lower back due to flexing the torso over the hips. Spooning or doggy style are safe sex positions because they use minimal spine flexion. Avoid the missionary position, as this can cause more flexion than you might think and force the pelvis forward.
4. Flexion intolerant men
Flexion intolerant men should avoid spooning/side sex because these positions worsen back pain by making it more challenging to move the hips. Try replacing these positions with the doggy style position, as this allows men to use more of their hips and knees rather than the spine.
5. Use a pain relief ointment or topical pain cream
Applying an ointment or topical pain cream on the back before sex can help reduce pain and inflammation; however, it’s important to remember to wash your hands after applying and before sex to avoid creams touching more sensitive body parts.
6. Find alternative ways to please each other
When sexual intercourse isn’t possible because of back pain, it doesn’t mean you can’t be intimate. Talk to your partner about other forms of stimulation. Ways to maintain intimacy beyond sexual intercourse include but are not limited to erotic massages, oral sex, and exploring the entire body.
7. Take an anti-inflammatory
Taking over-the-counter drugs such as ibuprofen, naproxen, or Advil can help with pain and inflammation during sex. Make sure not to exceed the recommended doses.
About the Doctor
Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS, leads The Institute for Comprehensive Spine Care, with offices in the greater New York City area, as a spinal and orthopedic surgeon. Board-certified and fellowship-trained, Dr. Okubadejo specializes in the treatment of degenerative spinal disease, spinal deformity, and cervical, lumbar, and thoracic conditions.
Dr. Okubadejo earned his undergraduate degree at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and his medical degree at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. He completed his internship and orthopedic surgery residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Okubadejo completed a spinal surgery fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh.
Dr. Okubadejo is a published research author and has presented his findings at several major spinal conferences around the globe. While a surgical resident, he won the Leonard Marmor Surgical Arthritis Foundation Resident Award for the best research project. In 2017, Dr. Okubadejo formed company 360 Dynamized Core, which is focused on creating innovative, spine safe core fitness products and routines. The first patented product, 360 CoreBoard, launched to the market in 2020. Find out more at 360coreboard.com
Dr. Okubadejo believes in the power of preventive care, minimally invasive surgical procedures, open communication with patients, and personalized care. When he’s not caring for patients, he enjoys traveling, learning about different cultures and the arts, and playing golf.