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I Had Surgery: Is It Too Soon for Sex?

Having Back Pain Doesn't Mark the End of Your Sex Life

Question: I recently had spinal surgery to relieve pain from sciatica. How long should I wait to have sex? When I am able, are there any special precautions I should take?
Gardiner, ME

Answer: Both of your questions are important because a lot of people share your concerns. In fact, a 2008 SpineUniverse survey about sex and back pain found that 72% of sexually active adults had sex less frequently than before their back pain began.

Sex is a vital component to the health of any romantic relationship. And back pain certainly has the ability to make it a less than satisfying experience.

Besides the obvious physical hurdles, back pain takes a psychological toll that can erase the desire for sex. Those two obstacles often place sex at the very bottom of many back pain sufferers' to-do lists.

Fortunately for you, it sounds like your recent back surgery hasn't prevented sex from being a priority. So how long should you wait to have sex after surgery? Well, that depends on the specific type of surgery you had and the recommendations of your doctor. But generally, most doctors will say you can begin having sex again when you feel ready.

Naturally, getting to the point where you feel comfortable is completely unique to the patient. Surgery—even when it's minimally invasive—is exhausting to go through. Some people may take 3 months before sex is an option, while others might need 6 weeks. It's completely varied.

But when you do feel comfortable, there are some special considerations you should take into account to protect your back—and your post-surgical sex life.

When it comes to sex after surgery, positioning is essential. You need to find positions that won't put unnecessary strain on your back muscles. Taking a passive, gentle approach to sex is really the best way to start—this approach will best prevent painful back strains. Sharp movements, such as bending forward or arching your back, can increase your pain, depending on your condition.

To learn more about specific positions that are ideal for back pain sufferers, read this article about sex and back pain.

Placing pillows under your legs or rolling a small towel your low back will also add support. You also might also want to try lying on a firm surface, instead of soft mattress, to support your back. But understand that what's comfortable for you may be different than what's comfortable for someone else. If you find firmer surfaces painful, then don't use them. What's most important is your comfort.

If you're ready to begin having sex again after back surgery, you've already won part of the psychological battle. Of course, never underestimate the importance of communicating your fears and concerns with your partner. Together, you can start slow and work gradually toward an activity level that you can tolerate. Experiment with positioning that supports your back to discover what works best for you. Keeping your back health in mind may not be the sexiest notion, but it will help you enjoy a happy, healthy post-surgical sex life.

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