In early May, 28-year-old writer Danielle was having some issues with her back and hips. They were sore, tight and frequently painful, and though acrobatic physical activity seemed like a bad idea, she decided to ignore that thought after being presented with the opportunity to have some “nasty sex.”
While taking it from behind in a position she describes as being “folded in half,” she put her head down and turned to make eye contact with her partner. “Unfortunately, my spine was curved so it was all compressed as I was getting fucked hard,” she tells me. “I’m pretty sure that was the straw that broke the camel’s back — me.”
As soon as she stood up to go pee, it was clear her back had been blown out by sex. “I knew right away that it was going to be bad, ‘cause I was walking all hunched like a grandma from the pain,” she continues. “I mumbled something like, ‘Oh fuck, my back’ and hobbled to the bathroom.”
Thanks to hip hop, Twitter and TikTok, getting your “back blown out” has recently become synonymous with great sex. But to some geriatric millennials like myself, it seems like a painful kink reserved for Gen-Zers whose nubile bodies can recover from a romp without the help of a chiropractor. Not to mention, why is it always the woman getting her back blown out? Even in the context of heterosexual intercourse, if the guy is really doing such a great job, wouldn’t the chivalrous thing be to blow his own back out, too?
I may be taking this concept too literally, but I’m not alone in my confusion. As a number of prudes on Reddit and Quora confirm, plenty of people misunderstand what it means to get your back blown out during sex. “What in the Sam hell does blowing a back out mean???” one redditor wrote in r/NoStupidQuestions. “I think it may be sexual, but I’m still just extremely confused.” Another suggested it may have something to do with “rough sex from behind.”
To be fair, that does seem to be the agreed-upon definition, with the earliest example dating back to a 2003 entry on Urban Dictionary: “When you do it doggy style and she can’t walk the next day or two.”
But in July 2017, Burdenofproof, another Urban Dictionary user, expanded on the face-down, ass-up position, as “the act of having sex in the position in which the receiving partner is laying down with back arched up, and the giving partner is entering from the posterior.” As for how to use the term in a sentence, they offer the example, “Damn, I don’t care how much we been arguin’, just blow my back out tonight.”
Last summer, July 1st was even declared “National Blow Your Back Out Day.” However, as per Danielle, there’s evidence that people might be celebrating the holiday too hard. One study found that about 84 percent of men and 73 percent of women had less sex as a result of back pain, and other research echoes that back pain can decrease sexual pleasure and function. This didn’t stop Danielle from trying to fuck the pain away, but as we now know, it definitely made it worse.
What’s ironic about this, though, is that the very position Danielle was in is also the one recommended by experts to protect the back. One “groundbreaking” (as opposed to back-breaking) study from the University of Waterloo found that despite the fact that spooning had been a back-protective position often recommended by doctors in the past, this wasn’t, um, backed by data. But by using “infrared and electromagnetic motion capture systems” scientists concluded that spooning was one of the worst positions for having sex when it comes to back pain, particularly for men. Instead, researchers recommended replacing spooning with doggy style, just as Danielle was doing.
According to physiologist Fiona Fox, sex-related back injuries are more common than people think. In fact, she’s witnessed many at her Knoxville-based clinic. “Mainly it’s because a lot of people don’t realize that their backs are weak, and they need to be strong enough to have sex in certain positions,” including doggy style, she explains. To deal with the bodily rigors of fucking and protect your back, she recommends building strength in your pelvic floor, glutes and shoulders. Or, for a quick fix, “buy lots of pillows in different densities so that you can build a nest system that supports you.” This, she says, “is particularly useful as you age or are recovering from injury or surgery.”
Although blowing your back out can be a euphemism for hot, intense sex, it’s important to note that sex that “is meant to be pleasurable, while back injuries definitely are not,” adds sociologist and clinical sexologist Sarah Melancon. Melancon, who’s also a writer at The Sex Toy Collective, recommends that “if sex is causing you injury, slow down and relax. Intensity can be fun, but don’t go so far it causes you pain.”
For people like Danielle, however, it’s possible to take a euphemism too far. Not only could she not walk the next day and was out of commission for the following week, she’s currently seeing a chiropractor and a physical therapist to correct the damage. She also hasn’t slept with that partner since, so it’s not exactly the pride point that Twitter and TikTok would have you believe.
The lesson? “If something is uncomfortable or painful during sex in the moment — like being all twisted up when getting absolutely pounded from behind — say something!” she says. “Speak up! It was a huge reminder to honor my body in the moment, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable it is.”
In other words, be careful to not blow your back out while blowing your lover’s back out or getting your back blown out, respectively. It’s really that simple.