The painful sex lives of Britons suffering from bad backs are being worsened by medical advice that spooning is the best position for them, according to a new study.
For the first time ever, scientists have successfully documented the way the spine moves during sex and discovered how certain positions are better than others when it comes to avoiding back pain.
In what is the first “biomechanical analysis of movements and postures” during sex, researchers measured the physical motions of couples who were encouraged to “move as naturally as possible”.
Five male and female couples were each given pictures of five different sexual positions (spooning, and variations on missionary and doggy style positions) to adopt, by researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada.
The results of the research into how men’s spines move during sex, published today in the Spine journal, reveal how doggy style positions would be “considered the most spine-sparing of the positions.”
Infrared and electromagnetic motion capture systems – similar to those used to make video games – were used to track physical movement during intercourse.
“Our findings and initial recommendations contradict the most frequently advised coital position for both male and female patients with LBP [low back pain]: the side-lying position,” states the study.
For while those who are “motion intolerant” – whose back pain is exacerbated by any movement – should avoid all positions, men who are “flexion-intolerant” – whose back pain is worsened by touching their toes or sitting for long periods of time – should replace spooning with doggy-style positions, say researchers. They should use a “hip-hinging” motion rather than thrusting with their backs, according to the study.
And men who are “extension-intolerant” – who experience pain when arching their backs – will find sex in the spooning or missionary position more comfortable, it says.
Many doctors are “uncomfortable” talking to patients about sex or “do not address these needs at all”, according to the paper. It suggests that having recommendations backed by data will “not only substantiate their clinical advice but also facilitate dialogue between healthcare practitioners and their patients”.
Lead researcher Natalie Sidorkewicz said: “The study found that contrary to normal medical recommendations, spooning is not always the best sex position for men with a bad back. Spooning used to be recommended by physicians for anyone with back pain because it was thought to reduce nerve tension, disc bulges, and loads on the spine.”
She added: “Our analysis of spine motion during intercourse shows that in fact, the recommended positions for men depend on what movements trigger their pain.”
The findings mean that “for the first time ever, we now have very solid science to guide clinicians on their recommendations for patients who suffer debilitating back pain, but still want to be intimate,” commented Ms Sidorkewicz, something which “has the potential to improve quality of life – and love-life – for many couples”.
And researchers plan to publish details in the coming months about what happens to women’s spines during sex.