7 Sex Positions to Avoid if You're Experiencing Painful Sex

7 Sex Positions to Avoid if You're Experiencing Painful Sex

7 Sex Positions to Avoid if You're Experiencing Painful Sex

By Emma McGowan

For many people, sex can be a source of pleasure and connection. But for others, it can also be a source of pain and discomfort. If you experience pain during sex, it’s important to find out what’s causing it and how you can reduce it. It’s also helpful to know which sex positions are more likely to cause or aggravate the pain. 

But before we dive in, it's important to remember that sex positions aren't one-size-fits-all and what works for one person may not work for another. What does work for everyone, however, is communication with your partner. It's critical to be open and honest about any discomfort or pain you may be experiencing, and to work together to find positions that are comfortable for you. You can also consider exploring other forms of non-penetrative intimacy, such as kissing, touching, cuddling, mutual masturbation, and massages to discover other ways of bonding with your partner.

With all of that in mind, here are some positions that you might want to avoid if you’re experiencing pain during sex.

1. Missionary 


Two adults in "missionary" position


The missionary position is one of the most common sexual positions but it’s not always recommended for people who experience pain during intercourse. This is because the missionary position puts pressure on your lower back and pelvic area, which can be painful for people who have existing conditions like endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). To reduce discomfort in this position, try using pillows under your hips or thighs for additional support.

2. From behind


Two adults in "doggy" position


From behind is another common sexual position that many people find causes pain during sex. This position puts extra pressure on your lower back, which can make existing conditions like sciatica worse. Additionally, the thrusting motion involved in sex from behind can further aggravate an already painful situation, especially if the receptive partner has trouble with deep penetration (Ohnut can be a helpful tool for reducing the depth of penetration in this position).

3. On top — reverse!


Two adults in "reverse cowgirl"


Often called reverse cowgirl, this involves straddling your partner while facing away from them while they lie on their back. This position puts extra pressure on your lower back and abdomen, which makes it particularly uncomfortable for people who experience pain during sex due to gynecological issues such as endometriosis or PID. 

4. Spooning


Two adults in "spooning" position


Spooning is a popular position for couples that prefer a more intimate and cuddly feel during sex. However, this position can be uncomfortable for the receptive partner as the penetrating partner's weight can put pressure on the receptive partner's lower back and hips. This can be especially painful for those with lower back issues or conditions such as arthritis.

5. The butterfly


Two adults in "butterfly" position


This position involves the penetrating partner sitting on the bed or a surface, and the receptive partner sitting on top of them with their legs straddled around the penetrating partner's hips. This position can be intense for the receptive partner, as it requires deep thrusting, which can be uncomfortable for those with conditions such as dyspareunia. It also puts pressure on the penetrating partner's pelvis and lower back, which can be uncomfortable for them as well.

6. The eagle


Two adults in "eagle" position


This position requires the penetrating partner to kneel on the bed or a surface and to lift the receptive partner’s legs over their shoulders. The Eagle position is intense and deep thrusting can be uncomfortable for many people (again—Ohnut can help with this!). It can also be difficult to maintain balance, which can also cause pain or discomfort.

7. The pretzel


Two adults in "pretzel" position


The pretzel is a variation of doggy-style position. The receptive partner goes down on their elbows and crosses one leg over the other while the penetrating partner comes in from behind. This position can be uncomfortable for the receptive partner as it puts a lot of pressure on the hips, thighs and lower back (though could increase comfort by limiting the depth of penetration). Additionally, the penetrating partner needs a lot of flexibility and balance to maintain the position which can be painful for the receptive partner.

Painful sex can be confusing and frustrating—but by experimenting to figure out which is for you and then avoiding the positions that hurt, you’ll be able to enjoy a more pleasurable and comfortable sexual experience with your partner. 

And if you’re not sure what exactly the problem is, you can also consult with your healthcare practitioner to help you identify what might be causing the pain, and to come up with a treatment plan. Remember that you don't have to suffer in silence, there are ways to address pain during sex and make it a more comfortable and enjoyable experience for you and your partner.


  • @Mori: We’d recommend the positions in these two blog posts!
    Because everyone is different, not every position will work for every body—so we absolutely recommend doing some experimenting!

    Ohnut on

  • What positions do you recommend?

    Mori on

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