Sex and Back Pain: How to Have Great Sex Without Discomfort

by Anne Windermere Patient Advocate

One of the most popular health topics on Health Central is back pain. Consumer Reports estimates that as many as 80% of adults living in the U.S. have had to cope with back pain at some point in their life. Lower back pain is the most frequently reported type of back pain and according to a Consumer Reports survey, 24% of respondents having lower back pain, say that it greatly interferes with their sex life. In this post we are going to focus on how to maintain a healthy sex life despite having lower back pain.

Please Note: If you experiencing back pain of any kind you need to seek the expertise and guidance of your doctor. The following information is not intended to replace the medical advice of your physician. Probably the best thing you can do to improve your sex life if you suffer from back pain is to be treated by your doctor.

Two Simple Rules to Begin: This may seem like good old fashioned common sense, but talk to your partner about what feels good and which positions feel painful. The other piece of advice is that if something hurts-stop. Sex is supposed to feel pleasurable and not painful. We are going to help you find ways to keep your sex life active and enjoyable despite your back pain.

Sexual Positions Which May Cause Back Pain

  • For men and women with back pain the doggie style might be painful or any positions where you are arching your back.

  • Women with back pain may also find that lying flat on their back with no pillows to support the head may place too much pressure on the spine during missionary style sex.

  • Likewise lying flat on your stomach with no supports under the belly may also cause spinal pain.

  • I have no clinical evidence to support my theory but most of the positions listed under Cosmopolitan's Advanced Sexual Positions look pretty painful to me. The "Arc de Triomph" which requires the woman to arch into a backbend and "Head Game" position where the female is upside don't look like they would be good for one's back.

The bottom line is that you don't have to be a circus performer to have a good time in bed. Sexual intimacy does not depend upon exotic sexual positions. Protect your back so that you avoid injury. One night of "rodeo sex" might seem exciting but if it hurts your back you may be out of commission for quite some time.

Things that can help to prevent or ease back pain prior to sex

  • Exercise to strengthen your core muscles including your abs.

  • Yoga is another way to increase abdominal strength and improve back pain.

  • Taking a relaxing warm bath with your partner prior to sexual intercourse can not only set a romantic mood but can relax your back muscles.

  • Who doesn't like a massage? Giving and receiving a massage prior to sex can be a wonderful form of foreplay and can also help to un-kink tense or tight muscles. There is also evidence that massage can be an effective treatment for both anxiety and depression.

  • According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
    alternating hot and cold compresses can help ease back pain for some sufferers. They suggest applying a cold pack or cold compress to the back several times a day for up to twenty minutes. After several days of cold treatment the application of heat such as using a heating pad may be used.

Sexual positions and adaptations for back pain sufferers - Use of pillows and towels

Rolled up towels or pillows can be used in numerous ways to make things more comfortable during sex and prevent back pain. For example, some people find that placing pillows or rolled towels as support behind knees and the head can lessen the strain on the back during sex. For men and women with low back pain a rolled up towel or pillow strategically placed under the lower back can also prevent back discomfort. For men it can help if their partner elevates her bottom with pillows so that he doesn't have to bend so much in the missionary position.

  • Side by Side Position

In this position partners lie on their sides facing each other. The woman lifts up her top leg so that her partner can insert his penis. This is a very intimate position where kissing and cuddling is more possible than some other sexual positions. It is also a sexual position which is easy on the back since nobody is bearing the weight of the other.

  • Spooning

In this position the woman lies on her side as her partner penetrates from behind. This is also a very intimate position and the angle is said to be not only less risky for those with pain but is also said to be good for both g-spot or prostate gland stimulation.

  • Adapted Missionary Position

Some women may find that back pain may be lessened if they simply bend their legs up towards their chest. Strategically placed pillows can also help reduce the pressure on their back.

  • Woman on top position (for men with back pain)

One position a man may try if he has lower back pain is to place a pillow or rolled up towel under his lower back as his partner straddles him from above. This way he does not have to use his back muscles during penetration.

  • Chair Sex

The literature on best positions for people with back problems frequently suggest [using a chair during sexual intercourse]. The chair back can provide support for the man as his female partner sits on his lap from the front or behind.

Please note that some or any of these positions may not work for you or your partner. The key is to communicate to one another about which sexual positions are comfortable and do not cause discomfort or pain. It may take some experimentation to find the right postures and positions for you. It is also a good idea to speak with your doctor (don't worry they have heard it all before) about their suggestions for having sexual intercourse which does not aggravate your back pain.


The following are resources about sex and back pain. Remember that we are not responsible for the usefulness or functionality of any information given on these external sites. Also be aware that some of the following links may contain more graphic information.

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Anne Windermere
Meet Our Writer
Anne Windermere

These articles were written by a longtime HealthCentral community member who shared valuable insights from her experience living with multiple chronic health conditions. She used the pen name "Merely Me."