Like red wine and a fine cheddar cheese, certain things just get better with age. That said, you may not be able to pretzel yourself into the same sexual positions you could at 20. Or maybe you can, but not without some element of risk.
Maybe risk is part of the appeal. But if you’re more concerned with safe sex—the kind that won’t lead to embarrassing ER visits—here are some suggested sex positions for every decade of life.
About 25% of pregnant women experience pain around their pelvis, and roughly 8% are still dealing with it 2 years post pregnancy, U.K. research shows. This often springs from “sacroiliac joint pain”—a discomfort around your sacrum (located at the base of your spine) and the iliac bones (the two large bones that make up your pelvis), explains Isa Herrera, a physical therapist at Renew Physical Therapy in New York. As a result, many women in their 30s experience pain when attempting certain sexual positions. To avoid this pain, Herrera recommends an oldie but goodie: sex on all fours. “Since your hands and knees are on the floor or bed, it keeps your pelvis neutral,” she explains.
Even if pelvic pain isn’t an issue for you, sensitivity below the belt is common—especially if you’ve recently delivered. “Your nether regions will still be sore and tender, and your back may still hurt,” Herrera says. She recommends a “spooning position,” where you lie side by side with your partner, either facing each other or in the same direction. It’s great for new moms who are still tender because it allows a woman to control the speed and depth of penetration, points out NYC sex therapist Amy Levine.
Cases of sciatica—pain in your lower back or hip that travels down through each of your legs—tend to first pop up in your 30s and 40s, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. (Try one of these 6 stretches that relieve sciatic pain.) The two best positions for this are, you guessed it, spooning and all-fours, both of which take pressure off of the sciatic nerve, says Natalie Sidorkewicz, a doctoral researcher at Canada’s University of Waterloo who published a study on this very topic in 2014. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, Herrera recommends “reverse cowgirl.” Have your partner lie on his back, and sit on top of him with your back to his face. But “don’t lean forward, which can aggravate pain,” she notes.
You can also try the “flatiron” variation of the all-fours position: Lie facedown, knees slightly bent and hips slightly raised (so your butt is in the air), with a pillow under your chest for support. “This keeps your spine neutral, which will help ward off pain,” Herrera says.MORE: 10 Moves To Tone Your Waist, Legs, And Butt—While Keeping Your Gorgeous Curves
Throughout menopause, the drop in estrogen may make sex more painful, thanks to dryness and thinning of vaginal tissue. You’re also more likely to develop “pelvic prolapse,” when a pelvic organ like your bladder drops from its normal place and pushes against your vagina, Herrera explains. Try a sitting position where you’re facing your partner and perched on his lap, so you can ease onto his penis very gently. Once you’re comfortable, you can control the movement to make it as rough or as gentle as you’d like. (Get your sex life back after menopause and beat weight gain with The Natural Menopause Solution.)
Another option is to lie on your back with a pillow underneath your hips and thighs to open up your pelvis and vagina for easier entry. (It also provides a little extra cushioning if your bones and joints are starting to get a wee bit achy.)
About a third of men and women in their 60s suffer from osteoarthritis, according to the CDC. If that’s the case for you, positions that put a lot of pressure on your knees or hips—like all-fours or cowgirl—are out, says NYC physical therapist Lynn Berman. “I try to encourage my patients to stand, which eases pressure on joints and also helps strengthen their bones,” he says. Try standing with your back facing your partner as he enters you from behind. (Rest your arms on furniture for support and balance.)
If you’re suffering from back pain—either from spinal osteoarthritis or a condition known as spinal stenosis—then your pain probably worsens when you arch your back or lie on your stomach. In this case, the missionary position with low-back support from a pillow is best, Sidorkewicz says. Straddling your partner works well, too, since you’re controlling the movement. “Instead of using your spine to roll your pelvis, use your knees and hips,” Sidorkewicz advises.