Photographed by Lauren Perlstein.
Sex is one of humanity's all-time favorite pastimes, so it definitely sucks when a painful situation is holding you back from enjoying it. But, recent research sheds light on a few of the most common causes of pain during sex — and how to avoid them.
1. Choose back-friendly positions. Up to 80% of us will experience back pain at some point in our lives. But, thanks to research published this week in the journal Spine, we now know the best sex positions for those suffering from achy vertebrae. The researchers at the University of Waterloo performed the first biomechanical tests with motion capture of people in sexual positions to determine what would be best for a variety of common spine problems. They found that the correct back-preserving position depends on your issue: For instance, they recommend switching to doggie-style from spooning for those people whose pain is worsened by trying to touch their toes. For these couples, putting more force behind their hips could save their spine.
2. Lubricate, lubricate, lubricate. Vaginal pain is commonly due to a simple lack of lubrication. It's usually easy to remedy by simply adding a water-based lube to the mix. And, even if this isn't an issue for you, using lube has been shown to increase sexual satisfaction and pleasure ratings. There's also a condition called vaginismus, which can cause the vaginal muscles to involuntarily spasm and squeeze. Unsurprisingly, this can make sex pretty painful. The solution here is usually to address any underlying anxiety regarding sex, but it can also include kegel exercises. But, other possible causes of pain (including cysts, endometriosis, or tears), require taking a break from vaginal sex or seeking actual medical treatment.
3. Don't ignore a headache. Long considered a joke, the existence of sexual headaches is now backed up by a fair amount of research, and it's estimated that about 1% of the population gets them. These headaches are migraine-like and occur in both men and women right before, during, or after sex. One particularly awful variety comes on suddenly — right at the moment of orgasm. But, the prognosis is good even for those who suffer from chronic sex-related headaches: There's a 69% remission rate over three years if the sufferer gets appropriate treatment, which usually involves painkillers for the headaches and jaw- and neck-muscle-relaxation techniques to prevent reoccurrence.
While the researchers certainly didn't present all the causes of unfortunate situations in the sack, they did offer some of the most approachable science-backed solutions. So, here's to getting the most out of getting it on.