Up to 73% of women complain of lower-back pain and report that they have less sex as a result of this discomfort. According to NIH, Black women are two to three times more likely than white women to have part of the lower spine slip out of place, causing chronic back pain. This pain often impedes sexual activity making positioning difficult and uncomfortable. In addition to having chronic back pain, not being able to physically connect with a partner can cause stress in relationships that spill over into other areas.
Common risk factors for back pain include getting older where back pain usually begins during the 30-40 year old age range. Poor physical fitness is also a factor, as people who do not a maintain a somewhat active lifestyle are more prone to have back pain (read: sitting at a desk or computer throughout the day and coming home to sit and watch television until bed). Being overweight is also a common factor for those suffering from back pain, as weight can stress the spine. Heredity and disease are factors to consider when back pain becomes an issue as well since some types of arthritis and cancers cause pain in the back.
Be aware that other factors that affect your back, such as smoking and strenuous work, can put you at risk for back pain due to the nutrient deficiency caused by smoking or the physicality of over using /under using your spinal column and surrounding muscles appropriately.
If you suffer from chronic back pain there are a few variations to sexual positioning that you can try to alleviate the pain, while still engaging in intimate relations with your partner.
Type of pain: Gets worse when bent over or sitting for long periods
If you have this type of pain try to engage in sexual play that keeps your spine in a neutral position. This means that your back would look like a table top if you were on all fours. Doggy style is perfect for either party suffering from back pain, as the receiver should be on hands and knees and relaxed with shoulders pulled away from ears and the thrusting partner should only use the pelvis and hips to thrust forward, keeping the back in neutral spine. This position can also be done standing up with a person bending over an object such as a bed, waist high counter or table.
Another option is to use a yoga ball where this position can be achieved by laying over the ball so that they are still able to achieve neutral spine. If you are able and really adventurous, two yoga balls can be used, where one person lies over the ball on their stomach and the other person sits on the other yoga ball and thrusting is achieved through rocking back and forth on the ball.
Type of pain: Arching back or lying on the stomach, curvature of the spine
For this type of back pain the oldie but goodie Missionary position is most effective. A pillow or two under the lower part of the back will help keep neutral spine as well and alleviate the pressure that comes with curvature. If you want to switch it up a bit, the person laying on their back can shift their body to the side so that they are laying on their side with pillow support and have the thrusting partner straddle one leg. The legs can be bent or elongated depending on comfort level.
For techniques using a yoga ball, the yoga ball can be placed against a wall and a person can be straddled for some very sexy face-to- face sitting up Missionary. Either the rider or the mountee can have their back against a wall, washer, dryer or other smooth hard surface to help maintain neutral spine.
For these varied positions, make sure that the motion is controlled using knees and hips, not the back. Using aids such as a yoga ball, pillows and any other apparatus should be discussed with your medical doctor before being put to use. Utilizing different positioning may have a restorative effect on your relationship with you and your partner being able to re-establish lost intimacy and explore new ways of exploring each other’s body in pain-free ways.
Dr. Lexx Brown-James, LMFT a marriage and family sexologist with a private consulting agency in St. Louis, Mo.