Sex is a full-contact sport, and star quarterbacks don’t let minor injuries—especially those caused by their own teammates—keep them on the sidelines. You shouldn’t, either. Just use this modified playbook.
Your injury: Pulled hamstring
“The most important thing will be to minimize hip flexion—or the motion of bringing your knee up toward your chest,” says Bryan Heiderscheit, PhD, a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin. Flexion puts strain on your hamstring. So any positions that require it—missionary, for one—are a bad idea, Heiderscheit says. Lying on your back—provided you’re staying still and not lifting your hips—is probably the way to go. If that sounds boring, take comfort in the fact that you won’t be in sex purgatory for long: “I’d say that 5 days following a hamstring injury, your chances of aggravating it during sex are minimal,” Heiderscheit adds.
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Disk injuries, such as bulges, are probably the most common back ailments, says Stuart McGill, PhD, director of the Spine Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Waterloo in Canada. Because these injuries are aggravated by movements that cause you to bend your spine forward, any sex position that requires these sorts of actions are probably a bad idea, McGill says. McGill and his team performed the first study measuring spine loads during sex. “Rule number one is to keep your back locked and neutral—not flexed or extended,” he explains. “If you are in the top position, you want to move your hips, not your back.” Find a comfortable position and have your partner move on top of you, McGill advises. If you tend to experience pain when you bend forward to tie your shoes or hunch over a computer screen, McGill’s research shows doggystyle is The Best Position for Your Aching Back, since it’s least likely to aggravate your injury. If arching backwards is your problem, stick to missionary, he says. (Just remember: Move your hips, not your spine.)
Your injury: Bum knee
Whether you’re crouching, kneeling, sitting, or squatting, any position that causes you to flex your knee is going to be risky, Heiderscheit says. Unfortunately, that rips out most of the pages from your sex playbook. Along with on-your-back sex, Heiderscheit approves side-lying or spooning positions in which you lie on your “good side” and support your bad knee with a pillow. Standing or “weight-bearing” positions are off limits immediately following an injury. But after a few days, standing sex is alright provided you’re not putting any pressure on your injured knee, Heiderscheit says.
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While he didn’t study this specifically, McGill says maintaining a “neutral” neck position during sex—not bent forward or craned back—is probably a good idea. (This isn’t the time to break out your tantric manual.)
Also, mind your orgasms. “We found that in some men, orgasm is a non-event in terms of muscle contraction,” McGill says. “But in others, we saw 100% contraction during orgasm—a very dynamic event.” If you’re the kind who undergoes a whole-body shiver during climax, switching to a comfortable on-your-back position might be a good idea as you approach liftoff.
Your injury: Broken arm
Obviously, any position that puts pressure on your wounded wing is a no-no. But it’s also important to be mindful of the power of painkillers, says Tobias Köhler, MD, a urologist and reproductive health expert at Southern Illinois University. If you’re taking something that dulls pain to the point that you can’t feel whether you’re aggravating an injury, that’s a big problem—however, he adds that pain is a potent libido slayer, and so you may not be able to enjoy sex without the drugs your doctor prescribed to numb your pain. A good plan of action: Try, if you can, to attempt different sex positions at a time when you’re free of painkillers. That’ll show you what hurts, and what’s safe.