Is back pain hurting more than just your spine? For many couples, back pain affects their sexual health, which in turn can put an additional strain on their relationship. This doesn’t have to be the case, though. Recent studies on spinal strain during intercourse offer insight on the most comfortable positions for those suffering from specific types of low back pain. This is both exciting and important news, because improving your sexual health can provide numerous benefits to the overall quality of your relationship.
A new study using motion capture technology was able to isolate the various types of spinal strain that men encounter during different sexual positions. The research, published by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins in the journal, Spine, points out that while the spooning position had long been suggested for those with low back pain, new findings show that it may actually cause more harm than good.
Using the advanced technology to collect this data grants experts a more scientific origin from which to advise specific sexual positions for men suffering with varying degrees of low back pain, according to Natalie Sidorkewicz, MSc, and Stuart M. McGill, PhD, of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at University of Waterloo, Ont., Canada. Participants in the study consisted of 10 healthy couples in established relationships, none of whom suffered from any pains that affected sexual activity. They were asked to perform 5 different sex positions at the biomechanics laboratory, while researchers observed and measured spinal strain using motion capture technology.
Depending on the kind of movements that trigger an individual’s back pain, researchers were able to determine the optimal positions for each type of low back pain. For a “flexion-intolerant” patient—pain triggered by forward bending of the spine—a “quadruped” position where the woman is on her elbows and knees would put the least amount of strain on the man’s spine. The next best option for minimizing flexion-intolerance is a variation on the “missionary” position in which the man supports his upper body with his hands instead of his elbows.
Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study, was the amount of strain produced by the “spooning” position. It proved to cause the greatest strain on the male partner’s spine, making it the least recommended position for low back pain sufferers. This contradicts the most common advice given to people with low back pain, but as Ms Sidorkewicz comments, “These previous recommendations for men and women with any type of back pain were based on speculation, clinical experience, or popular media resources—not scientific evidence.”
Sidorkewicz and McGill acknowledge that the focus on “male-centric” positions limits the study’s findings to improving low back pain for men specifically, but they have plans for continued research that will encompass more demographics. Future studies will address beneficial positions for females, as well as biomechanical effects in patients who are actually suffering from back pain, and potential posture recommendations to help all.