Baby got back (pain)

UW researchers from the applied health sciences faculty recently published their research on the male spine’s motions during sex.

Dr. Stuart McGill and PhD student Natalie Sidorkewicz followed the sexual experiences of 10 healthy male and female participants who have been in a relationship for a minimum of five years. Through the study, they determined which motions and movements most aggravate and lessen lower back pain.

This is the first research of its kind, according to Sidorkewicz. She emphasized that their findings are applicable to all sexual orientations and their recommendations are dependent on the needs of individual patients.

Their research began over seven semesters ago, when Sidorkewicz worked as a clinical kinesiologist at a multidisciplinary rehabilitation and wellness centre. Sidorkewicz was met by patients expressing discomfort and pain in their lower back often exasperated by sex.

As Sidorkewicz assisted her patients, she became aware that though means to decrease pain were available, the research present was often generic and minimal. After completing the first year of her master’s in science, Sidorkewicz was encouraged by McGill to pursue this as her thesis topic.

Commonly couples experiencing back pain during sex are recommended to try spooning, however McGill and Sidorkewicz’s research proposes an alternative. Spooning involves an exertion of the spine resulting in increased pain. This happens when a person is extension-motion-intolerant.

“If a man’s low back is worsened by spine extension movements, such as arching their back or lying on their stomach, we would consider them to be extension-motion-intolerant,” Sidorkewicz said. In these circumstances, McGill and Sidorkewicz recommend that patients try a modified spooning position with less extension or a modified missionary position, in which their weight is placed on their elbows rather than their hands.

Likewise, a patient suffering from back pain may be flexion-motion-intolerant, which is when “a man’s low back pain is worsened by spine flexion movements, such as touching their toes or sitting for long periods of time,” Sidorkewicz said. If this is the case, patients are recommended to try doggy-style and missionary. Unlike extension, when in missionary position patients are encouraged to place their weight on their hands and not their elbows.

In more general terms, they recommend for patients experiencing low back pain to try a modified missionary position, which involves the participant doing the pelvic thrusting to use more hip and knee movement rather than using their spine (which is most common). The participant lying on their back should use a back support under their lower back to maintain “a more neutral spine position,” Sidorkewicz said.

Sidorkewicz explains her decision to undertake this project as a result of the high number of men, 84 per cent, and women, 73 per cent, who experience back pain and choose not to have sex.

“Our intent is to test the effectiveness of our initial recommendations on these patients to further develop the guidelines into a complete atlas for clinicians and patients to use. We hope our body of work will improve the quality of life of many low back pain patients who have been struggling with this issue for quite some time,” Sidorkewicz said.