You’re itching to top the hell out of your partner using some good ol’ fashioned digital stimulation — but your hands hurt. Maybe your fingers are tired after last night’s spirited sex fest. Maybe they’re worn out from a long, wholesome day of scrapbooking. Or maybe hand pain is just part of your daily life. If you’re a queer person living with arthritis, chronic tendinitis, hypermobility — or any other disability, chronic illness, or injury that causes pain in your hands — you’re probably a little too familiar with the ways chronic pain can affect your sex life. Friend, you’re not alone.
I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist — I’m just a dyke with chronic pain who writes about sex for a living, and I’m here to share some hot tips that might make fingering more accessible.
If you already know that finger banging just doesn’t work for you, you certainly don’t have to do it. There are plenty of other ways to have hot, queer sex! But if providing digital stimulation is on your “yes” list, a few minor adjustments can make finger fucking a little easier, even when pain is cramping your style. As with any sex advice, some of these tips might not apply to your specific needs. Take what works and leave the rest!
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
You already know this, but it’s worth reiterating: If you want to have mutually pleasurable sex, you’re going to have to share your desires and needs with your partner — including your accessibility needs. It’s okay to say, “I would love to [insert sexual act], and I need [insert access need] in order to do that in a way that’s comfortable for me.” If your sexual partner doesn’t respect your access needs, they’re not worthy of your time or your topping skills.
Choose a Comfortable Position
When we’re having sex, most of us focus on the comfort of the person who’s getting fucked. I get it — service tops will service top — but we have to look out for our own bods, too, especially if we want to go at it for a long period of time.
Before you initiate external stimulation or penetration with your fingers, take note of the position your body is in. If you know you won’t be able to hold this position for multiple minutes, reposition yourself and/or reposition your partner so you can more easily access their erogenous zones. Elevate your partner’s hips on a cushion, prop up your elbow on a pillow, have your partner lie on their back with their legs hanging off the bed while you sit in a chair in front of them — do whatever feels comfortable and sustainable for you and your partner. The position you end up in might not look like any of the sex positions you’ve seen on The L Word, but guess what? You’re a real person having real sex, and as long as you and your partner are enjoying yourselves, it doesn’t matter what your sex looks like.
Focus On Your Form
If you’ve ever worked out, tried physical therapy, or played a sport, you’re probably familiar with the idea of “good form.” While sex isn’t a “sport” in the traditional sense, sometimes sex-havers need to treat ourselves like athletes — okay, champ? Your torso and hips might be in a comfortable position, but if you find that your shoulder is up to your ear or your wrist is bending at an awkward angle, you probably need to make some adjustments.
If you’re thrusting with your fingers, try using your larger, stronger muscles to get the job done — in other words, move from your shoulder instead of from your wrist. If you can, roll your shoulders back and pretend like you’re tucking your shoulder blades into your back pockets. This activates the muscles under your shoulder blades, which will prevent you from putting stress on your rotator cuff and help you keep those shoulders in alignment (this is especially important for hypermobile folks like me who are prone to dislocations and subluxations).
You can take steps to improve your form outside of the bedroom, too. Keep up with your physical therapy, if that’s part of your usual body maintenance — and if lifting weights or doing some light bodyweight exercise is safe for your specific meatsuit, try out these sexercises recommended by a queer personal trainer.
Use Your Assistive Devices
If wearing a brace or braces helps you with other physical activities, it’ll probably help you out between the sheets, too. Buds, there is nothing weird or unsexy about wearing an elbow brace, a wrist brace, or any other assistive device while you fuck — and if that assistive device allows you to rail your partner into next week, everybody wins. That said, if you usually wear ring splints to stabilize your fingers and you want to wear those during sex, stick to external digital stimulation — you don’t want to scratch your partner’s vagina or anus or lose one of your splints inside your sweetie’s ass.
DIY Tip: If you don’t have a wrist brace available, wrap the fingers of your other hand around the wrist of the hand you’re using the fuck — it’s a simple way to give yourself a little extra support.
Let Your Partner Do the Work
If you have limited hand mobility or if you’re in too much pain to stroke, rub, or thrust with your fingers, put your partner in driver’s seat. Ask them to grind their genitals against your palm, or hold your fingers still and let your partner ride them — this is fun on its own, and it also allows your partner to demonstrate the pressure and speed they like.
This might sound obvious, but you might need a reminder: You are allowed to switch hands while you’re fingering a partner, especially if you deal with chronic pain! If you have two hands with a similar level of functioning, give your usual fucking fingers a rest in the middle of your sex session and let your non-dominant hand do some work.
Pro Tip: If you’re penetrating a partner with your fingers, use the thumb of the hand you’re removing to provide some external stimulation on your partner’s clit or perineum for a seamless switch.
Hear me out: Fisting can be a great activity for tops with chronic pain because it typically requires minimal movement (or no movement at all) on the top’s end — for many fisting bottoms, the “full” feeling that a fist provides is enough stimulation on its own. Plus, it looks like a cool magic trick.
Be aware that if your partner is enthusiastic about getting stuffed and you manage to get your entire fist in their hole, your hand is going to experience some pressure. For some fisting tops, that pressure can feel like a nice, warm hand massage, but it might not be comfortable for everyone.
If you don’t have prior fisting experience, make sure you clearly understand how to fist safely before your first attempt. This Autostraddle guide covers vaginal fisting, and this article offers step-by-step instructions for both vaginal and anal fisting.
Use a Sex Toy
If you struggle with small, repetitive movements like stroking or rubbing or if your fingers just can’t give your partner the internal pressure they’re craving, then it’s time to whip out the sex toys. Using a sex toy doesn’t mean you’ve “failed” at fingering — sex toys are tools that can make your solo or partnered sex life more enjoyable, and for many people with chronic pain, toys are a necessity.
If your partner digs external stimulation, choose a vibrator or air pulse toy that’s lightweight and easy for you to hold. Some online sex toy retailers list the weight and dimensions of toys on their websites, but if you’re not sure what will work for you, it’s probably best to shop in person so you can get a feel for different options. If you have limited hand mobility or low grip strength, you can opt for a vibrator that rests between two fingers (like the Yumi Finger Vibrator [$62]) or one that’s worn on your finger like a ring or a finger cot (check out the Rechargeable Finger Teaser Vibe [$30] and the Frisky Finger [$55]). There’s even an air pulse toy you can wear like a ring — the Shegasm Mini Stimulator ($30).
For dildos, the same rules apply: Look for one that’s lightweight and easy to grip. And if you’ve ever thought, “Gee, I wish my dildo had a handle for easier thrusting,” I have thrilling news — you can purchase a dildo handle that pops right inside most hollow, silicone toys!
If holding a dildo isn’t going to work, you can always wear it in a pelvic harness or a thigh harness and let your partner ride it off into the sunset. Some companies actually make hand harnesses, too, although they can be hard to find at mainstream sex toy retailers. Check out your favorite independent harness-maker’s website to see if they offer hand harnesses or make custom pieces.
For more tips on shopping for accessible sex toys, check out this Autostraddle guide.
Don’t Use Your Hands At All
If you’re doing everything you can to make finger fucking accessible and it’s not working out in the moment or in general, that’s okay! There are lots of hands-free ways you can top the living hell out of a partner. Go down on them. Eat their ass. Press your thigh between your partner’s legs. Ask them to wear a butt plug out to dinner. Tell your partner a sexy story or give them instructions while they masturbate. I! Could! Go! On!
If you want more tips on navigating sex when you live with chronic pain or other disabilities, read A Quick & Easy Guide to Sex & Disability by Autostraddle writer A. Andrews.
THIS ARTICLE!! THANK YOU!!!!
As someone who’s written on this website about how I believed my chronic pain meant I couldn’t fist, I would like to report back that I’ve learned that fisting actually is less painful on my hands than, say, fucking with 2 fingers! My fantastical fears were much worse than reality.
Excited to try some of the things here that I haven’t, thank you Ro!
I loved that article! (And this one :))
This article is so so rad and I’d love to see this be a whole series! Getting v granular/specific info on making particular sexual activities easier for my body has been difficult– the generalities I usually find (assistive tools exist, positioning support can be useful, etc) was a really great place to start but I lately I’ve been wanting to find pieces like this that get into the specifics of form. Would love, for example, an article on what to look for in impact toys /form tips to lessen their impact (lol) on my wrists and general fatigue as the wielder
this is great, thanks so much for writing! i would love a similar article about oral sex with chronic jaw pain. love, a muff-diver with TMJ disorder <3
Thank YOU for this great article! Very relevant to my interests.
I loved this article and I especially loved that fisting was mentioned! As a top with joint issues I can report that fisting works great with hypermobility because my hand can fit anywhere!
Thank you so much for writing this article Ro and autostraddle for featuring it! I was diagnosed with tendinitis after hurting my wrist playing tennis and as a stone top this was very difficult for me to grapple with. I experienced so much shame and guilt about the possibility of not pleasing my partners in the same ways I have before. Reading this brings so much awareness to these mobility and joint issues and takes the shame out of the conversation which I really needed to hear a few months back ! There is no one way or right way to please someone ! How lucky are we that as queer people our options for pleasure feel endless !!!
Thanks for writing this article! I appreciate the info you’ve shared here. That being said- for those of us who have to use wrist braces, do you have any recommendations for keeping them from getting gross during sex?
What a great question! There’s a wide range of wrist braces out there made of different materials — most can at least be hand-washed, but if you want to protect the brace during sex, my best idea would be to wear a latex or neoprene glove that’s large enough to cover your hand and part of your wrist brace.
There are a lot of reusable latex gloves out there marketed as fisting gloves that go down the forearm a ways!
Love love love this article.
I have very short fingers and my partner loves a deeper penetration and I found buying a finger extender toy really helped me to not strain my wrists!
Just an extra for any other stubby hand pals!
Wouah, I started the article thinking “oh that’s cool and useful” and I end with tears to my eyes feeling “damm we need more of this, I’m so tired of the pressure of able sexual performances and feeling ashamed of my body, not only because of how it looks but also because of its *many* limitations”. Thank you so much for this article!!!
AWW. Fantastic content! As a feral switch, and a woman with variable levels of hand function (from a bit weak, to non funtional) due to Psoriatic Arthritis and Hypermobility this article made both me, and my fabulously understanding gf, feel seen.
THANK YOU!!! I have axial spondyloarthritis which makes all aspects of sex really painful and difficult. This article opened my eyes up to new possibilities 🌈🌈🌈 brb going to read all your work now!!!!