The researchers analyzed spinal movement and muscle loading in 10 couples engaged in intercourse using five common positions. From the results, they were able to offer preliminary recommendations for positions to pursue and avoid for either “flexion-intolerant” or “extension-intolerant” men. Flexion intolerance is marked by increased back pain upon bending forward, which commonly occurs in men with a herniated disc. Extension intolerance is characterized by increased pain upon bending backward.
The following are sex positions that flexion-intolerant men, according to this study, should be comfortable in:
Doggie Style: This position involves one partner on all fours with the other partner behind, entering from the rear. Two variations of “doggie style” include the receiving partner supporting him/herself with the hands or elbows. For the man with flexion-intolerant back pain, entering from behind and thrusting from the knees and hips rather that the lower back is a good way to avoid exacerbating pain.
Missionary Modification: A man with flexion-intolerant pain can also assume the missionary position, with his partner lying on her back. He can prop himself up on his hands to extend his back and avoid flexing the lower back when thrusting.
Men with this type of back pain benefit from positions that would be detrimental to someone with flexion-intolerant back pain. The study identified two optimal back pain sex positions:
Spooning: The two partners lie in fetal position with the partner in pain behind the other. The flexed position prevents exacerbation of extension-type back pain. (Spooning is the position that doctors have generally recommended to people with back pain, but this study found it unideal for men with flexion-intolerant pain.)
Missionary Modification: Here, the man on top will support himself on his elbows, lying closely against his partner. She can flex her hips and bend her knees at his sides to assist in making the position comfortable for him.
The reported findings thus far have not focused on women with back pain. Researchers plan to publish findings in this area soon, as well as optimal positions for people with hip pain. For now, women can use common sense and favor positions that don’t require them to bend their spines in ways that exacerbate pain.
Maintaining a healthy sex life in the face of chronic pain is important for many individuals and couples. The positions that are right for you depend on what type of back pain you have. Communicate with your partner about your needs, and find time to experiment!
Learn more about the Waterloo sex study at www.everydayhealth.com.