Expert Advice

7 Sex Positions To Try If You're Dealing with Pain Down There

Gettin' all Cosmo, because sex should feel *good.*

Intimate couple in bed
Kathrin Ziegler/Getty Images

There are many reasons why you might experience pain during sex, and it's worth repeating from the jump that you should never feel pressured or coerced into doing anything that causes you pain or discomfort.

That said, nearly three out of every four people with vaginas have experienced painful sex, a condition broadly called dyspareunia. Your brain may be ready to get down, and for one reason or another, your body just isn't having it. So, how do you minimize pain and enjoy the sex you want and deserve?

Scary Mommy spoke with two sexperts, who offered up their best tips for reducing pain and amping up the pleasure if you sometimes find penetrative intercourse to be a no-go.

Sex Doesn't Look One Single Way

"My definition of sex is a meaningful act of pleasure, which can be many, many things," says licensed psychotherapist Rachel Wright, M.A., L.M.FT. "Not all sex needs to be penetrative. Those with vaginal penetration pain can also lean on oral sex, anal sex, and outer sex," aka any form of intimacy without penetration.

Generally speaking, "pelvic pain during or after sex is caused by a penis or sex toy hitting the cervix (deep penetration) and can put pressure on nearby organs like the uterus, fallopian tubes, and bladder," says Wright. "So, positions that allow for more shallow or controlled penetration can help avoid hitting the cervix and putting pressure on these other organs."

That said, Wright notes it's worth repeating that "not one position, or modified position is going to be for everyone." You can try positions or techniques and quickly realize that they're not for you, which is totally OK and nothing to be ashamed of or worried about.

Positions to Try

1. Spooning — in which both partners lay next to each other on their sides with the outside partner penetrating the inside partner with their body parts, fingers, or toys — can be great for reducing vaginal pain, as well as pain in other parts of the body, says Lisa Lawless, Ph.D., C.E.O. of Holistic Wisdom Inc. "Spooning allows for vaginal or anal penetration, making this sex position ideal for any gender or sexual orientation. It offers excellent G-spot and prostate stimulation."

2. Have you ever tried reverse spooning? You can switch it one up and face each other lying down, which will be more supportive on the back and legs than other positions. "Subtle changes to the positioning of arms and legs, as well as using a pillow or sex toy, can make a big difference in pleasure, comfort, and the thrusting angle," says Lawless.

3. Another fun pick, per Lawless: sitting pretzel, a position in which one partner can be seated, either in a chair or wheelchair, at the edge of a bed, facing away from it. "The partner being penetrated vaginally or anally then straddles them, facing them, and hooks their feet on the edge of the bed, allowing them to brace themselves to move back and forth into the penis or dildo."

"This position is ideal for a person with a penis or strap-on dildo who uses a wheelchair and has limited mobility, chronic fatigue, or lower back issues, as well as pelvic pain," says Lawless.

4 & 5: Women with pelvic pain might also find that getting on top by trying out some classics — say, in cowgirl or reverse cowgirl — "allows the person being penetrated to control the depth of penetration," says Wright. This can be done either sitting or with one partner lying down, and you can straddle them face-to-face or away, controlling the movements and reducing pain.

6. While Wright says doggy style might not be the best option for people who specifically have bladder pain, lifting your hips and resting on pillows or cushions — or even standing and using a table or the wall for balance and support — might ease pain or discomfort that traditional doggy can cause.

7. Of course, we can't count out good old missionary, which can easily be modified to help reduce pain, says Lawless. "In this position, the receiving partner lies on their back with their legs raised. The penetrating partner can kneel on the bed or stand by it while raising their legs over their shoulder or holding them for added support. This can help reduce pressure on the pelvis and may be a good option for those with pelvic pain."

She notes that modified missionary is excellent for offering control of the depth and angle of both vaginal and anal penetration, allowing for easy access to the clitoris for manual stimulation or a sex toy.

Other Tips and Tricks

Aside from specific positions, there are plenty of props, accessories, and household items you can also incorporate, says Lawless. Using a sturdy chair with a solid backrest can help reduce pressure on the spine, but you'll want to be sure the chair can support the weight of both partners and is on a steady, non-slippery floor surface. She also recommends shower chairs for tub or shower sex, keeping safety and security top of mind should you opt to try one.

"Adding pillows or cushions on chairs can give added support and height to make sex positions easier," she notes. "They can also provide added comfort on the knees and the back. If one partner is in a chair and the other is on the floor, you can use cushions or pillows for the partner standing or kneeling on the floor to raise them and provide added support and comfort."

Both pros recommend dilators, a set of smaller dildos that gradually increase in size to slowly and comfortably stretch delicate vaginal tissue, says Lawless. "I recommend choosing a dilator made with quality non-porous silicone that is platinum-cured to ensure that it won't have harmful toxicants from softeners and color pigments. Choosing a body-safe dilator set will ensure that while improving vaginal health, you are not exposing yourself to harmful chemicals."

Both pros also recommend penis bumpers (yes, really!), which are rings placed on the base of the penis to keep it from going too far inside. And, of course, body-safe lube is essential for every sexual encounter, PIV or otherwise. Lawless suggests moisturizing, water-based options that won't exacerbate vaginal dryness or irritate sensitive skin.

Lastly, you never want to ignore pain or discomfort, so if something new and funky is going on, check in with your OB-GYN or a pelvic medicine specialist. They can work with you and get you back to feeling better, ensuring future romps in the hay are fun and pain-free.