Tips for Having and Enjoying Sex after a Spinal Cord Injury

Sexual enjoyment is possible after a spinal cord injury (SCI). All it takes is preparation and a little exploration.

Tips for Having and Enjoying Sex

Explore ways to make sex more enjoyable.

Having a spinal cord injury doesn’t mean the end of your sex life. Far from it. You can have a healthy and fulfilling sex life. All it takes is attention to a few practical matters. Then you can begin to explore new sensations and greater opportunities for sexual enjoyment.

A few simple details to prepare for sex with a spinal cord injury:

  • Empty your bladder to avoid interruptions and other issues
  • If you’re a man and have an indwelling catheter, fold it along your penis and hold it in place with a condom or tape
  • Be sure to have plenty of aids ready to help you get into a comfortable position during intercourse, such as pillows, foam wedges, Velcro® restraints, and supports
  • Have plenty of lubricant nearby

Sensations exercise: 4 steps for enjoying sex with a spinal cord injury

You may have lost some sexual sensation, but there is still a lot to explore. If you’re a man and getting an erection is a challenge, there are medications and mechanical aids that can help. If you’re a women with a spinal cord injury, you may experience some issues with sex, such as less vaginal lubrication. Using an over-the-counter lubricant before sex can help.

Whether you’re a man or woman, here are four steps you can take to make sex more enjoyable.

  1. Explore: Take some time to explore areas of your body where sensation is still intact, and where you may feel stimulated. Have your partner explore your entire body: head, hair, face, neck, chest, abdomen, back, buttocks, hands, feet… everywhere. They can explore with their hands, mouth, or a combination of the two. Enhancers like oils, lotions, feathers, and vibrators can be used as well.
  2. Go slowly, stay focused: Keep the areas you explore small, about the size of your hand. Sensations can differ within inches. Focus only on the sensation and stimulation of each area, without thinking too much about intercourse just yet.
  3. Communicate: Give feedback while your partner is exploring your body. Does it feel great, irritating, or painful? Use a number scale if that’s easier. Remember, this is a time of intimacy, so make sure you speak lovingly, understanding that your partner is only trying to help.
  4. Enjoy: Following these steps can easily lead to successful intercourse. But many people with a spinal cord injury report arousal or even having orgasms from hyper-sensitivity above the level of injury. Ears, neck, chest or other areas can be extremely sensitive and easily stimulated.

We are all sexual beings, and your injury doesn’t change that. Sex is much more than an orgasm. It’s a bonding between you and your partner in ways that transcend intercourse. Exploring sensations is one way to make that bond even stronger, and sex more enjoyable. 

Hollister would like to thank the United Spinal Association and Mitchell S. Tepper, PHD, MPH, for their assistance in providing information for this article. Download their free booklet, Living Your Life: Sexuality Following Spinal Cord Injury.