There’s a lot of talk these days about mixing pain with pleasure, but what about the chronic pain you can’t control? How does living with a bad back affect your sex life?
The National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that 8 out of 10 Americans will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. That’s a lot of sexually active people who need to figure out how to keep their love lives intact! And painkillers aren’t the answer, because they can lead to a reduced sex drive or even physical dysfunctions.
Maureen O’Leary, a specialist in orthopedic injuries and neuromusculoskeletal impairments, suggests that exercises designed to strengthen and stretch muscles go a long way toward preparing the body for sex. And of course not all back problems are created equal. “People with lower back problems like sciatica or a herniated disc tend to feel more pain when bending forward, while those with spinal stenosis may find bending backward to be more painful,” explains O’Leary. What’s key is to find the specific exercise routine that works for you, which may require consulting a body expert, sports doctor or physical therapist.
Equally important is good communication with your partner. He or she cannot help you or create a better lovemaking experience if you don’t talk about what triggers the pain that you experience. Sharing a warm bath and experimenting with pillows can be a way to relax and begin the process towards intimacy.
“Talk about it,” says Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, who blogs for CNN Health. “ Back pain can be tricky because people often look fine, even if they feel terrible. That’s all the more reason to keep your partner in the loop.”
Don’t try to please your partner at the expense of hurting yourself. Your partner will feel the distraction in your body language, and conclude that something is wrong. If you’re not forthcoming that the ‘something’ is back pain, their imagination could run wild.
There may be certain positions that would work better than others, for example, to bring you both satisfaction, without one person having to ‘grin and bear it.’ It can feel awkward at first to talk to your partner about how you’re going to make love, but you may find that the experience deepens your connection with each other, and that even the steps taken to find comfortable sexual positions such as Spooning or Scissors can bring you back to the same page, erotically speaking.
If your pain is much too severe to try having sex, see a medical professional and take solace in the fact that the severity is likely temporary, and focus on other acts that can maintain your intimacy without rigorous performance. Get comfortable and start kissing if that feels good – hold hands, enjoy each others company! You can even talk about what you’ll relish doing to each other sexually once the back pain subsides and you’re able to resume physical exertion. This kind of mental stimulation may even motivate you to find ways to work it out sooner than you thought!
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