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Illustration by Alexis Lira

Back pain can make sex more agony than ecstasy.

Studies across the globe have found that most people with back pain have significantly less sex because it triggers or worsens their pain. Motions like thrusting or arching your back, or even just supporting your weight, can make sex excruciating.

The good news is that science has got your back — pun intended — and positions for different types of back pain have been identified.

Tweaks to your usual positions, like adding a pillow for support, or trying a new position can make all the difference.

Read on to learn which positions are best for your back pain and other tips that can help make sex enjoyable again.

There’s no one magic position that’ll work for every person with back pain. To find the best position for you, an understanding of your back pain is important.

Remember to take things slow, listen to your body, and communicate with your partner.

Now, let’s talk pain-free sex positions. The following positions were shown to be the most comfortable for people with back pain, based on a study published in 2015.

The researchers examined the spine movements of 10 heterosexual couples while they had penetrative intercourse to determine the best sex positions for back pain based on the type of pain and gender.

Let’s get busy!

Doggy style

Doggy style should be comfortable for those who have pain when bending forward or sitting for long periods of time.

If you’re on the receiving end, it may help to support yourself with your hands instead of coming down to your elbows.

It can also be a good option if you also feel pain when bending backward or arching your back.

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Missionary

Missionary is the way to go if any kind of spinal movement causes pain. The person on their back can put their knees up and place a rolled up towel or pillow under their lower back for added stability.

The person doing the penetrating can use their hands for support and lie or kneel over their partner.

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Side-by-side

On-the-side positions used to be the recommended go-to for anyone with back pain. It turns out it doesn’t work for all types of back pain.

Side-by-side while facing each other is most comfortable for people who find sitting for long periods of time painful. If you have pain when arching your back, though, you’ll want to skip this one.

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Spooning

This is another position that’s long been recommended for sex with back pain, but it’s not for everyone. With a little tweaking, spooning may be comfortable for some extension-intolerant people.

Think of it as rear-entry spooning, with the person doing the penetration lying on their side behind their partner.

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Along with choosing the right position and properly supporting your back, there are plenty of other things you can do to make sex with back pain better. Here are some to consider:

  • Tweak your posture. Unless a position causes severe pain, try slight adjustments to your posture to see if it helps. Sometimes, a small change in your posture or your partner’s position is all it takes.
  • Take a hot bath or shower before sexual intimacy. A hot bath or shower can help relieve tense muscles and help you relax before oral, vaginal, or anal sex. It also helps increase blood flow and makes for great foreplay if you enjoy a soak together.
  • Take a pain reliever before sexual activity. Taking an over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory before engaging in any sex positions can relieve pain and inflammation. These include ibuprofen and naproxen. Acetaminophen can also help with pain, but not inflammation.
  • Use a pain-relief cream beforehand. Applying a topical pain cream or ointment to your back before sexual exploration can help reduce pain and inflammation. Just be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after applying it to avoid contact with more delicate body parts — ouch!
  • Move with your hips and knees. Rather than moving your spine, move with your hips and knees instead. Minimizing your back’s movements can help you avoid pain during sexual intercourse.
  • Communicate. Being honest with your partner about your pain and how it affects your ability to have or enjoy sexual activities is crucial. This doesn’t just ensure that they know your reluctance to have sexual penetration has nothing to do with them. It also lets you work together on ways to make sexual touch work for you both.
  • Find other ways to please each other. Talk to your partner about other ways to pleasure each other when your back hurts. Oral sex, sensual massage, and exploring each other’s erogenous zones are a few ideas.
  • Use a pillow. Experiment with placing a pillow under the neck, back, or hips. A small pillow or rolled up towel can help stabilize and support your spine in different positions.

When you’re in the throes of passion, you might still end up with a little pain, no matter how hard you try to avoid it. Unless your pain is severe, you should be able to get relief at home.

If your back hurts after sexual activity, give the following a try:

Back pain can make sexploring anything but pleasurable, but some positions have been shown to work better than others for different types of back pain.

An understanding of your pain and the movements that trigger it, as well as some extra support from a pillow, can make all the difference.

Be honest with your partner about your pain. Adjust your positions and posture as needed to make sexual intercourse comfortable.