Wasn’t it the Oscar-winning actress Betty Davis who once said: “Aging is a bitch?” Well, not so fast! Take lovemaking, it can be more intimate and sensual in our seasoned years, but when you add back pain to the equation, it can be problematic. It’s no fun suffering from back pain when you are tangling it up between the sheets. However, with a few adjustments, sex can be exciting and satisfying once again even with back discomfort.
It’s significant to note that sex can do wonders for back pain and can actually be therapeutic for it. There are indications that your body increases the production of its natural painkillers during arousal and orgasm.
Orgasms are ten times more effective than even some painkillers; they also have ten times the anxiety-reducing effect as some drugs. Oxytocin, aka the “cuddle hormone” or “love hormone,” also reduces anxiety and is released when people snuggle up or bond socially; it rises almost five times just before an orgasm. When the body’s endorphins (hormones) interact with the opiate receptors in the brain, it can reduce our perception of pain and act similarly to drugs such as morphine and codeine.
As with any sexual experience while you have back pain, remaining relaxed is essential and doing so may also help relieve the muscles’ contributions to your pain levels.
Keep in mind that a little planning can make your sexual experience much more pleasurable even if back pain is an issue.
Talk it out
Openly discuss with your partner all of your concerns. The pain-free person needs to check in regularly, while the person-in-pain needs to be open and honest when something hurts.
Consider a pain reliever
Speak with your doctor about the best pain reliever for your particular situation. Discuss when would be the best and most effective time to take the medication prior to sexual relations.
Take a hot shower or bath beforehand
Studies show that taking a hot shower can provide short-term back pain relief. A hot shower, heating pad, or bath can reduce inflammation and relax tight muscles.
Avoid strenuous activity before sex
Just before sex, avoid activities that usually increase back pain.
Don’t do back-irritating things like go for a hike, grocery shop, clean out a closet, or weed out a garden.
Avoid lying on your stomach or your back with straight legs
Lying on your stomach or your back with your legs flat on the bed and extended straight out is not advisable. If you can, keep your hips flexed to take some pressure off your lower back.
Try making love in a body of water like a pool or hot tub. The buoyancy of the water can take some of the stress off your back.
Use pillows and props
Use pillows (even try putting your sofa pillows on the floor) or rolled up towels to support your lower back during sex. Common areas to place the supports are under your head and knees. You can also use lumbar support like a pillow under hips for a pelvic tilt.
Choose the right time
Don’t try to tough it out and make love when your back is killing you. When your pain is manageable or not a factor, then lovemaking should be “game on!”
Gentle is the way to go
Lovemaking should not involve rough moves and abrupt position changes during sex; just concentrate on slow and gentle rhythms that feel extra delicious to both partners.
Ice, ice, baby!
If you feel some tension in your back after sex, be sure to ice the affected area. Icing reduces inflammation (which is a leading cause of pain). Ice for just 15-20 minutes at a time and do not apply the ice directly to the skin (wrap in a towel, t-shirt).
Best positions for back pain
There is no universally accepted sexual position that will be the best or the easiest on your spine. Pay attention to which movements and positions feel comfortable and pleasurable and which ones hurt. You should also try discussing sexual position options with your doctor to find the least strenuous ones that would work best with your level of pain.
Here are some suggested sexual positions that might make sex with a back issue a little easier:
Avoid morning sex!
The discs in our spines are highly pressurized and expand first thing in the morning. So if you have any disc issues, avoid sex in the a.m. If you prefer sex in the morning, get up and move around for at least an hour first to relieve about 90 percent of the extra pressure and expansion so that sex will be comfortable.
Women suffering from back pain due to degenerative disc disease or disc herniation could be the most comfortable with the missionary position. If you have this condition, the missionary position is the best for you. The man could use his arm strength to prevent applying all his weight on you while you bend your knees to get them a bit closer to the chest as he penetrates. You could also use a pillow to support your lower back, keeping your spine in a neutral position.
- Reverse missionary: Men with a similar kind of pain should let the woman be on the top. This position allows the back to rest without straining it much.
Women who are extension intolerant (have too much arch in the back) may be more comfortable in the chair position, where they need to sit facing their partner. In this position, you’ll have to sit in your partner’s lap with your legs open to allow him to slide in slowly. The advantage here is that you still have eye contact and can still continue to caress and kiss each other.
(Those with a herniated disc should not try this position.) This is a rear entry sex position in which the receiving partner is on their hands and knees. Keep your spine straight and DO NOT arch your back or neck in pleasure. Men with lower back pain may be more comfortable with one leg elevated on a stool.
Spooning (aka the fetal position)
This is the perfect angle for deep and intimate sex that doesn’t require aggressive twisting and turning. This is a great sex option whether one is the pained or pain-free partner. While lying on your side, have your partner, also lying on their side, scoot up behind you, so you’re both facing in the same direction. While in this position, your partner enters you from behind. Women are supporting their bodies with arms or elbows, taking that pressure off the spine and nerve tissue. In the past, spooning was recommended as the ideal position for all back pain, but new research has found it’s only good for specific types of back issues.
Pleasure toys for back pain sufferers
Pleasure toys can take sexual play to another level of excitement. The right toy can also be an essential part of your sex life long after your back injury. The sex toys below are just a click away on Amazon.com.
Vibrator: Bringing the vibrator into the bedroom can allow you to play with penetration without putting excessive strain on your back. Remember, intercourse is not the only road to pleasurable intimacy. Gossip Charlie 7-Function Waterproof Silicone Vibrator, 7” by Coastal Essentials; $24
Doggy-style strap: A great toy for back-pain sufferers, particularly for those who have difficulty leaning forward or bending over. Like a cummerbund, the padded harness is placed over the abdominal region; your partner can then pull you into them using the straps. The harness supports your weight and takes away quite a bit of stress from your lower back. “I Like It Doggy Style” Strap by Sportsheets; $12
Sex Chair: Offers practically effortless sex. The chair is made of tubular steel and allows you to experiment with positions while sitting down and holding on for support. The chair helps to relieve strain from your thighs, lower back and hips. You can also bounce on it if your back allows. Holds up to 300 lbs. Multifunction Sex Position Enhancer Chair Novelty Toy with Handrail for Couples by Wetpia; $75
Sex body pillow: The blow up slanted pillow is made of non-slip material, use it to lift hips into the proper sexual position; provides comfortable back support. Ladovin Inflatable Triangle Support Pillow Portable Magic Cushion Ramp Body pillow for Couples, wavy design; $45