Screen Readers Skip to Content

Improving Sex Lives of Females with Back Conditions

Author: University of Waterloo
Published: 25th Oct 2014
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Female Sexual Health Publications

Summary: Newly published findings are giving women with bad backs renewed hope for better sex lives.


Main Document

The findings - part of the first-ever study to document how the spine moves during sex - outline which sex positions are best for women suffering from different types of low back pain. The new recommendations follow on the heels of comparable guidelines for men released last month.

Published in European Spine Journal, the female findings debunk the popular belief that spooning - where couples lie on their sides curled in the same direction - is the best sex position for all women with low back pain.

"Traditionally, spooning was recommended by physicians to all individuals with back pain because it was thought to reduce nerve tension and load on the tissues," said Natalie Sidorkewicz, the PhD candidate at Waterloo who led the study. "But when we examined spine motion and muscle activity, we found that spooning can actually be one of the worst positions for certain types of back pain."

The pioneering research combined infrared and electromagnetic motion capture systems, like those used by filmmakers for full computer graphic character animation, to track how 10 couples' spines moved when attempting five common sex positions. The findings were used to create an atlas, or illustrated set of guidelines that recommends different sex positions based on what movements trigger a patient's pain.

The atlas suggests that women who are extension-intolerant, meaning those whose back pain is made worse by arching their backs or lying on their stomachs, for example, replace spooning with the missionary position. Adding a low-back support, such as a pillow, can also help keep the spine in a more neutral position. For women who are flexion-intolerant, typically those whose back pain is made worse by touching their toes or sitting for long periods of time, the atlas recommends spooning or doggy-style sex where the woman is supporting her upper body with her hands, not her elbows.

"What we know now is that sex positions that are suitable for one type of back pain are not appropriate for another kind of pain," said Sidorkewicz. "These guidelines have the potential to improve quality of life - and love life - for many couples."

According to Statistics Canada, four of every five people will experience at least one episode of disabling low-back pain in their lifetime. Up to 84 per cent of men with low-back pain and 73 per cent of women report a significant decrease in the frequency of intercourse when suffering back pain.

"Primary care physicians report it is common for couples to seek their advice regarding how to manage their back pain during and after sex. Many couples will remain celibate because the pain resulting from one night of lovemaking lasts months," said Professor Stuart McGill, of the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo. "Now doctors have solid science to guide their recommendations."

The next phase of the study will involve recruiting patients with different categories of back and hip pain, as well as additional sex positions, to further develop the recommendations.

Post to Twitter Add to Facebook

Latest Female Sexual Health Publications

The above information is from our reference library of resources relating to Female Sexual Health that includes:

Effect of Sexual Orientation on Sexual Function and Distress thumbnail image.
A new study suggests cisgender heterosexual women are more satisfied in relationships and have fewer depression and anxiety symptoms than cisgender sexual minority women.
Publish Date: 27th Sep 2023
Gender Stereotypes Impact Diagnosis of Girls with Developmental Language Disorder thumbnail image.
Researchers examine the consequences of sexist myths on development of language, communication, and the social and emotional spheres among children.
Publish Date: 6th Feb 2023
A Tale of Three Women: Vaginismus, Menopause, and Sexual Anhedonia thumbnail image.
Three women with separate stories of sexual issues and discoveries.
Publish Date: 31st Jan 2023
Wooden court gavel and sound block. thumbnail image
A third of women of reproductive age in the United States face excessive travel times to obtain an abortion after U.S. Supreme Court Dobbs v. Jackson decision.
Publish Date: 1st Nov 2022


1How Many Genders Are There?
Alphabetical list of gender identities.

2Transgender Reporting Guide
How to write about transgender people.

3Glossary of Sexuality Terms
Definitions of sexual terms & acronyms.

4Glossary of Sexual Identities
Definitions of gender related terms.

5Am I Gay? Questions to Ask
Think you may be gay or bisexual?

• Submissions: Send us your coming events and LGBTQ related news stories.


• Report Errors: Please report outdated or inaccurate information to us.



• (APA): University of Waterloo. (2014, October 25). Improving Sex Lives of Females with Back Conditions. SexualDiversity.org. Retrieved May 27, 2024 from www.sexualdiversity.org/sexuality/health/female/98.php


• Permalink: <a href="https://www.sexualdiversity.org/sexuality/health/female/98.php">Improving Sex Lives of Females with Back Conditions</a>