Back Pain and Its Impact on Sexual Satisfaction

Why more Americans are saying, "Not tonight, dear ... I have a back ache."

Sex and back pain. Not two subjects that normally go together. But let's face it, they are two of the most discussed topics in our society today—just not usually in the same breath. And only one of them is generally discussed in public.

upset woman, couple in bedOk, first we need to get past the traditional taboo of discussing sex openly. We also need to own up to this fact: there's a large divide between how sex is presented in Hollywood's hit movies and how Americans are actually having sex.

The Hollywood version: spontaneous, uninhibited, and usually in every place except the bedroom

The real life version: well, suffice it to say that while Victoria's Secret ads encourage slipping into something seductive, many Americans are more concerned about slipping a disc in their back.

An exaggeration? Not according to results from SpineUniverse's Sexual Satisfaction and Back Pain Survey. It's time for sex and back pain to be discussed together. The reason is simple: Back pain is ruining many peoples' sex lives.

When it comes to what's happening behind the bedroom door, these survey results are very revealing (and yes, that pun is very much intended).

The Facts of Life

  • An estimated 76% of adults will experience back pain during any one year period.1
  • 85% of adults will experience back pain sometime during their lives.1
  • A remarkable 20% of back pain sufferers describe their pain as severe or disabling.1

So even if you don't have back pain now…you probably will. And you'll certainly know people struggling with back pain. Perhaps like death and taxes, it's just one more fact of life.

Recognizing the prevalence of back pain and knowing that it affects every area of life, SpineUniverse set out to determine what back pain does to sex. In February 2008, we conducted an online national survey of back pain patients. We found that:

  • 72% of sexually active respondents reported they had sex less frequently than before their back pain began.
  • 70% of respondents found their sex life less satisfying since the onset of back pain.
  • 61% of respondents indicated that back pain had made their relationship with their partner more difficult.

In short, for the majority of respondents, back pain resulted in less sex, less satisfying sex, and increased relational difficulties with their partner. Looks like fewer people are having sex in the city…or the country or even the suburbs.

After developing back pain, I have sex...
Back pain and sex survey chart; after developing back pain, percentage, sex, more , same, or less

Since I've had back pain, my sex life is...

Back pain and sex survey chart; since developing back pain, sex life is less satisfying, unchanged

Since I've had back pain, my relationship with my partner is...

Back pain and sex survey chart; since developing back pain, my relationship with my partner is difficult, unchanged, better

Recognizing the negative impact of back pain on sex, SpineUniverse also wanted to determine how helpful spine specialists are at addressing this issue with patients. The results were equally sobering:

  • 67% of patients had never discussed the impact of their back pain on their sex life with their spine specialist.
  • 52% of the respondents said they had not discussed sex with their spine specialist because they were uncomfortable raising the subject or because the doctor did not raise the issue.
  • Of those patients who did discuss their back pain and sex with their spine specialist, 56% reported that the conversation was not helpful.
I have discussed this problem with my doctor
Back pain and sex survey chart; discussed with doctor, yes or no

Two conclusions are apparent: back pain negatively affects the sex lives of millions of adults, and only a minority of patients discuss the problem with their spine specialists.

But you don't have to conclude from this survey that back pain immediately means no more sex. In fact, sex can become satisfying again by using several tips recommended by experts in the field. To learn tips about positions, relaxation, and even communication, read the article "Tips for Better Sex … even with Back Pain".

Updated on: 03/15/19
Continue Reading
Tips for Better Sex … even with Back Pain
Continue Reading:

Tips for Better Sex … even with Back Pain

The results of SpineUniverse's national survey on Sexual Satisfaction and Back Pain indicate that back pain is ruining the sex lives of many people.
Read More