Health conditions and sex

Reviving Intimacy After Illness or Injury

Published: DECEMBER 28, 2023 | Updated: JANUARY 2, 2024
Even when sex hurts, there are many things you do to ensure a happy ending.
Some days, I dream about that ultimate sexual experience. You know, the one where the build to orgasm is perfect, I don't feel self-conscious about any part of my body, nobody accidentally elbows someone else in the face, and we don't have to skip three different sex positions because they're putting painful strain on someone's back.

Until then, though, there's reality: sex isn't usually the glamorous, curated activity you see in movies - adult or otherwise. Most of us inhabit bodies with their own wants and needs, and those wants and needs don't magically disappear as soon as we get horny and take off our clothes.

Whether you're dealing with a temporary injury, chronic pain, or a lifetime illness, your sex life may require the same modifications you make during everyday life, and that's not a bad thing! Making the mental and physical space you need to have better< sex leads to, well, better sex.

And that's worth taking the time!


Modifying Sex Positions

Before you go about changing your favorite sex positions, I want to see if you can modify them. Having enjoyable sex is a gigantic industry at this point, and there are hundreds of sex position aids out there to make sex less strenuous on your body.

For example:
  • If kneeling places painful pressure on the knees, kneeling on top of the folded Liberator Flip-Ramp can allow you to rest the majority of your weight on top of the flat surface, reducing how much weight your knees carry.
  • If gripping your partner's hips in doggy style puts serious pain on the lower back, the Doggie Style strap lets you maintain an upright, uncompromised back position while still getting leverage for the position.
  • If lying flat for Missionary triggers nausea, a slightly-upright position by laying your upper body on a Liberator Ramp or Liberator Equus Wave may help.
  • If it's difficult to breathe on a daily basis, the Master Series Queening Chair can make queening viable again. The giving partner can easily set the headrest's height to allow space around the receiver's bum, allowing the giver to take breaths whenever they're needed.
  • If wrist pain and finger strength makes it difficult to grip a sex toy, a Liberator Tula or Liberator Top Dog can "grip" the vibrator or penis stroker (respectively) for you.
  • If Cowgirl places too much weight on top of the bottom partner's hips, using a sex swing can support a lot of the receiver's weight, allowing Cowgirl to be an option without adding pressure to the bottom partner.
We all have favorite sex positions, and the idea of enjoying sex without access to your once tried-and-true favorites can be demoralizing as heck. Before you write off some of your favorites, see if there's a way to use the aids at your disposal to make the positions work better for your bodies.

Experimenting to Get It Right

OK, so you tried modifications and still aren't finding something that's a great fit?

That's OK! There are hundreds of thousands of sex positions out there, and it's likely that another one will fit your body even better.

I recommend exploring Kinkly's sex position database with your partner to find what positions seem like a good fit to you. If you want to make sure it'll be a good fit, you and your partner can get into the position while fully clothed - just to give it a try without disrupting future sex.

Kinkly has a few articles that focus specifically on sex positions for specific pain points:
If you're especially looking for approachable, less strenuous positions, I'd recommend sorting the Database by "Low Mobility" to filter out all of the ninja-level sex positions that are only doable when every luck fairy is on your side.

Talking About What You Need

If you're enjoying solo pleasure, the only person you probably have to worry about is you. If partnered play is on the menu, make sure to talk to your partner about what you need.

I know: this can be really rough. On my bad knee days, I really don't like to admit that certain sex positions are entirely off the menu. It almost feels like admitting I'm a failure to my partner.

But if we do those positions anyway, he usually sees the discomfort on my face, and we end up moving on. He certainly doesn't want to cause preventable pain during sex.

Try to do better than I do, and keep your lines of communication open during sex. Even if something just doesn't "feel great", try to bring it up; a simple swap of angles or movements might revolutionize the whole thing within seconds!

Sometimes it helps me to think of it like choosing a restaurant. We both have opinions, and our brains are better together than separate. If I say I feel like Mexican, we can both come up with some great ideas to make that craving happen - and maybe he'll come up with that place across town I entirely forgot about.

Working on solutions together may also involve making requests of your partner. Your partner doesn't have the lived experience in your body that you do. If you think something will hurt today, requesting to avoid that activity, position, or body part is the knowledge your partner needs to avoid accidentally causing pain.

(I learned a really fantastic tip at a chronic pain and kink class years ago. If there are multiple spots on your body that are pain-inducing spots today, consider using a skin-safe marker to draw a giant "X" on those. This physical reminder can help a well-meaning partner stay away from those zones while simultaneously ensuring you can both relax into each other's touch.)

Seeking Pleasure, Not Specific Positions

Who says intercourse has to be part of your sex life all of the time? Honoring your body's needs might look like choosing different sex acts when you're sensing a flare up.

And that's great!

Understanding how to work with your body instead of forcing it into something that adds pain and stress is a huge step toward a sex life you can enjoy whenever you want it - not just when your body "allows".

If today's pain level makes movement difficult, consider lying in a comfortable position and exploring mutual masturbation instead.

If vaginal dryness or a soft penis are a thing today, consider sex acts that don't require erection or vaginal penetration - like sensation play, Nuru massage, anal toys, and more. (If you have the energy for it, this also might be a good chance to explore penis extenders or lubricants to open up a few more options!)

If an extra-tight pelvic floor makes the idea of orgasm sound painful, consider finding intimacy through naked cuddling and light kissing. If you have the energy, this might be a time where you can pleasure your partner and fully bask in what they look like during every step of pleasure.

Whatever feels like "pleasure" to you that day can be "sex" - even if it's just cuddling and a few kisses. Remember: sex is about pleasure and connection - not just orgasms.

Using Lube and Toys

Especially as we age, even if you go your entire life without a single injury, our bodies just don't work the same way they used to. Erections aren't as "on demand," and vaginal lubrication can be hit or miss.

That doesn't have to be the cause of painful (or avoided) sex. We all age, and the sex industry likes aged couple's money just as much as they like young couple's money. That means there are options out there to make sex more comfortable (or even viable in the first place!)

Read: Are You Over 50 and Having Sex? You Should Be

For couples who are finding pain during intercourse, I'd recommend a simple bottle of water-based lube and/or the OhNut. A simple water-based lube can make all the difference.

The OhNut may also be option for you. Too-deep penetration freakin' hurts. The OhNut is a soft, plushy rings that wrap around the penetrating partner's penis. Think of them as little penis buffers. They stop the penis from inserting any further than where the OhNut was placed. Since they're plushy and non-constricting, they don't affect the wearer's pleasure at all. You both can go back to thrusting with abandon without fear of "bottoming out".

There are a few options if you're looking to still enjoy intercourse without an erection.

If erection hardness is the concern, consider the Stealth Shaft Support. It's a supportive "frame" for a partially erect shaft. It adds additional firmness to make penetration possible while simultaneously leaving some of the shaft open to enjoy the sensations of intercourse.

If you'd like to ensure intercourse is on-demand regardless of what the penis is doing, I'd recommend the Locked in Lust Crotch Rocket or another strap-on harness for penis-owners. This lets you easily strap a dildo above your biological penis. It circumvents the biological penis entirely, so any penis pain or sensitivity will not be affected. With the "out of the way" placement of the dildo, it also allows the wearer to swap to their biological appendage mid-play for an easy back-and-forth experience with your partner.

If you're the creative and adventurous type, I'd recommend the Balldo. This "dildo" wraps around the base of the scrotum, allowing the wearer to penetrate their partner with their balls. It takes the need for erection entirely out of the picture while still offering a way to slide an erogenous, nerve-packed area into your partner.


Asking a Professional for Help

Sure, you can modify your sex life from the privacy of your own home, but have you talked to professionals about it? I promise, you're not the only person who wants to have sex without pain making an entrance, and there are entire medical industries designed just to help people have better sex.

Your doctor may have product suggestions or medications that can help alleviate some of the pain you're experiencing. Physiotherapy can help with a lot of sexual issues as well. You know your body best, but after you, a doctor with a thorough understanding of your body is probably your second-best option.

Especially as the medical field furthers its understanding of pain processing in the body, there may be options out there that you didn't even know existed!

Taking Small Steps Toward Better Sex

If you're still adjusting to life with body that has recently had some changes, my best advice is to start small - but to start. There's a lot of fear and expectation that can go into your sex life when you haven't tried it for a while. When your body has changed, it can make the idea of trying it all again terrifying.

Assuming your doctor has cleared you for play, the best thing you can do is hop back into the saddle. Do you need to do the same sex positions you were doing before? No, of course not. But start slowly, and make small adjustments as you figure out what your body is capable of.

After my partner had a back injury that laid him up for months, we weren't really sure what "sex" was going to look like for the two of us. Even lying down to watch TV was filled with pain, and he wasn't even doing anything for that!

One day, we decided he should give masturbation a try. There was no erection; he was too terrified of re-injuring his back for that. In the end, though, it worked, and it felt good. Masturbating on his back without me involved seemed to work. OK, that's good data to know.

The next time, he took the same position, and I used my hands on him instead. That worked OK too.

The time after that, he took the same position, and we tried mutual masturbation with my legs draped over his. We had to "nope" out of that one real quick; it placed strain on his lower back. It was frustrating, but we decided to see if shoulder pressure would bother him. That one worked! I could cuddle up against his side, my head on his shoulder, and we could enjoy mutual masturbation that way. That's something we could work with.

We continued this cycle of "trial and error" for (literal) years. Multiple years out from the injury, we're still in that cycle. Cowgirl still continues to be a "no go" most days, and we have to be really careful about any sex position where he gives me oral sex. The tilt of the head can aggravate the injury. (Our Queening Chair has been a godsend!)

That's just it, though: our sex life is different than it used to be, but it isn't gone. Was it a frustrating, aggravating path where I sometimes wished things just went back to how they used to be? Yep, it was.

Is "I want to go back in the past" an actual solution? No, it's not.But our sex life is still fantastic - even if some things are now off the menu. Yours can be too; just don't expect it to be a short, simple journey. After all, the best things in the bedroom are worth working for.

Mistress Kay

Mistress Kay has a fondness for all things sexual. With a house that's quickly running out of room for all of her reading and vibrating pleasures, she spends her free time reading, writing, and learning about the sexual universe with her partners. She can be reached at Kinky World.

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