Best Sex Positions When You Have A Bad Back

This article was scientifically fact-checked by Human Sexuality expert Dr. Laurie Mintz.

I’d forgive you if you believed that spooning was the best sex position when you have a bad back. After all, spooning leads to forking, am I right? Am I right? I’ll see myself out.

It’s a common problem though, with around 84% of men and 73% of women who suffer from lower back pain say that it results in a significant decrease in the frequency of sex. Family doctors report being that they’re frequently asked by couples about how to manage back pain during sex, and often they avoid sex for fear of the discomfort they know it will bring them. There’s no clear solution: painkillers might alleviate the pain but it doesn’t fix the problem, and they can also cause sexual problems, such as low desire.

10 couples volunteered to have sex while wearing motion capture devices along their spines, like those used to create realistic human movement in video games, and used the findings to develop a set of recommendations for positions and techniques that ease the suffering. Possibly the best use of mocap technology ever.

Best Sex Positions When You Have A Bad Back

What Are The Recommendations?

There are 3 types of back pain that affect sex: 

  • Flexion intolerant – pain is increased by leaning forward, to pick something up or touch your toes.
  • Extension intolerant – too much arch in the back, pain is worsened by bending backwards.
  • Motion Intolerant – pain increases when the spine moves away from its neutral position. It can be triggered by lying down, standing straight, or any kind of movement.

Positions By Pain Type For Women

Flexion Intolerant

Extension Intolerant

Motion Intolerant

  • Missionary

Positions By Pain Type For Men

Flexion Intolerant

Extension Intolerant

Motion Intolerant

  • Squatting
  • Reverse Missionary (partner on top)

If you have back pain, you can take comfort in knowing that there are sex positions that are suitable (not only that, but enjoyable) for you too. Get back to the enjoyment of sex without the stress on your body and mind. Find what works for you.

Spooning. The spooning sex position is pretty gentle and comfortable, and it’s a good all-rounder. But it doesn’t suit every kind of back pain.

Doggy Style. The motion capture showed that this position activates the ‘giver’s’ abdominal muscles and buttons, rather than the back muscles. If your back pain is muscle-based, this might be a good position to try.

Use Hips. Sex positions that emphasize hip-hinging motions are preferable to those that employ spine-based movements.

Let Your Partner Do The Work. If your partner doesn’t suffer from back pain, just get comfortable, perhaps supporting your back with pillows, and let them do all the work.

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*In this article, for ease of reader understanding, we are using the words sex and intercourse as synonymous, as is done in popular culture in general. Similarly, we use the word “foreplay” the way it is used in popular culture (i.e., the sexual acts such as oral sex that come before intercourse). However, as aptly pointed out by our sex expert Laurie Mintz, we would also like to acknowledge that such language exalts men’s most reliable rout to orgasm and linguistically erases women’s most reliable route to orgasm—clitoral stimulation, either alone or coupled with penetration. Indeed, only between 4% and 18% of women reliably orgasm from penetration alone. We look forward to the day when such language is not commonly used in culture.


Facts checked by:

Dr. Laurie Mintz

Dr. Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.Laurie Mintz, Ph.D., is a professor at the University of Florida, teaching Human Sexuality to hundreds of students a year. She has published over 50 research articles and is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Mintz also has maintained a private practice for over 30 years, working with individuals and couples on general and sexual issues. She is also an author and speaker, spreading scientifically-accurate, sex-positive information to enhance sexual pleasure.

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