Intimacy and Back Pain


Each day millions of Americans suffer from back pain caused by muscle strain, sciatica, herniated disc, traumatic fracture, bone spurs, spinal arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or other forms of spinal pathology. Depending on the severity of the pain, most people will make physical and behavioral adjustments to their lifestyle in an effort to achieve some level of comfort or relief. One of the first aspects of daily living to be affected by back pain is that of intimacy.

For most people sex is the most important part of intimacy. A recent survey found that 56 percent of those with severe back pain would voluntarily discontinue sexual relations if it resulted in an end to their back pain. The same study revealed that 46 percent of the respondents had chosen to discontinue all sexual activity, while others in the survey had sex less often or had less satisfying sex when it did occur. When back pain negatively affects a previously healthy sex life, problems are likely to arise in the relationship.

If back pain has affected the intimacy that you and your partner previously enjoyed you may want to consider the following:

  • Consulting a spine specialist to obtain an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your problem and a recommendation as to treatment alternatives. This information is critical to understanding what has happened to your back and what the future may hold. Keep in mind also that untreated pain can lead to proven relationship destroyers such as frustration, anger and depression
  • Having a frank discussion with the spine specialist regarding back pain and sex. Your back pain is unique to you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking your partner understands how your pain affects you. For this reason, it is preferable that your partner be present to share their questions and concerns
  • Asking the spine specialist for guidelines regarding positions and movements that will support your back and minimize pain during sex. As you experiment with different positions and movements keep in mind that you need to be gentle, and if it hurts, don’t do it.

Back pain doesn’t have to mean the end of sexual intimacy or the end of sexual satisfaction. It does mean, however, that you have to take affirmative steps to understand and manage it.

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