Does Sex Really Help Relieve Migraine?

What’s the short answer?

Yes! Yes! Oh, yes! Sex really does help relieve migraine attacks in some people.

But keep your knickers on, and don’t go throwing out your stash of Excedrin just yet. There’s a little more to it than just banging migraine away.

Does it depend on the type of migraine or headache?

Based on what we know so far, it appears that migraine attacks and cluster headaches can be sexed into submission in some people.

There are also plenty of anecdotal reports of people who say that sex has relieved other types of headaches, too.

Before dropping trou’ and assuming position next time your head pounds, you should know that for some, sex can worsen or even trigger headaches. (More on that in a minute.)

What kind of sex are we talking about?

This is the best part! Any kind of sex that gets you to orgasm is more likely to do it. This goes for partnered sex and solo sex.

More research is needed to understand exactly how sex relieves headache pain, but orgasm seems to be the magic ingredient for most in this titillating headache remedy.

How does it work?

Researchers still aren’t exactly sure how sex relieves headaches, but suspect that the rush of endorphins during arousal and orgasm play a role.

Endorphins are the brain’s natural pain reliever and act like opioids.

According to the Association of Migraine Disorders, they provide rapid pain relief that’s even faster than IV morphine. Yes, please!

A surge in these endorphins when you’re turned on could numb the pain of migraine attacks and other types of headaches.

There may be other physiological processes involved when it comes to sex and cluster headaches.

Some experts believe that orgasm has the same effect as deep brain stimulation on the area of the brain involved in cluster headaches.

Is there any research to support this?

You betcha! This actually isn’t the first time that sexual arousal and orgasm have been linked to pain relief.

Being turned on — especially to the point of climax — has been proven to relieve back pain, menstrual cramps, and even labor pain.

Doctors had suspected for years that sex could relieve migraine and cluster headaches, but only had a few case reports to go on.

In 2013, a large observational study of folks with migraine and cluster headaches finally confirmed it.

Based on the results of the study, 60 percent of the migraine-having participants reported that sexual activity gave them considerable or complete improvement of their migraine attacks.

The same study also showed that 37 percent of participants who experience cluster headaches reported that sexual activity improved their attacks.

Many of the participants said they used sex as a reliable therapeutic tool for migraine relief. Now that’s my kind of therapy!

What if it doesn’t work, or you just don’t want to be touched?

You’re not alone. Sex doesn’t do the trick for everyone, and a lot of people report that touching and physical activity of any kind is the last thing they want during a migraine attack.

You could try a little gentle exploration if you want to give orgasm another chance to help your pain.

Try lying in a dark room and massaging any of your erogenous zones. Use whatever speed or technique you’re comfortable with.

If it leads to arousal or orgasm, great! If not, it’ll at the very least help relax tense muscles.

If you’d rather not get busy when you’re dealing with a bad headache or just don’t find orgasm helpful, there are other things you can do for relief.

Here are some options:

  • Head to a dark and quiet place. Migraine attacks increase sensitivity to light and noise. Find a dark, quiet place to close your eyes and try to nap if you can.
  • Try hot and cold therapy. Placing a cold compress on your forehead or behind your neck may numb the pain and relieve inflammation. A warm compress used the same way can help loosen tense muscles.
  • Have some ginger. Ginger helps relieve nausea caused by migraine and other conditions. According to research, powdered ginger can be as effective as the drug sumatriptan for decreasing the severity and duration of migraine attacks.
  • Have a caffeinated drink. Having a small amount of caffeine in the early stages of a migraine attack can reduce pain. It can also enhance the effects of pain relievers like acetaminophen and aspirin.
  • Talk to your doctor about preventative therapy. Depending on the frequency and severity of your migraine, your doctor may be able to prescribe medication to help prevent future migraine attacks.

What about the opposite — can sexual activity trigger migraine?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but sex does trigger migraine attacks and other types of headaches in some people.

Why this happens isn’t completely understood yet, but researchers believe that it may have something to do with the involvement of muscle tissue in the back and neck when you get physical.

Another possible explanation is the relationship between stress, excitability, and mood.

In some people, sex also triggers other types of headaches that are referred to as — surprise — sex headaches.

There are two types of sex headaches: benign sexual headaches and orgasmic headaches.

People with migraine are more prone to sex headaches, but they can happen to anyone who’s sexually active, even if the only sex you’re having is with yourself.

How do you know if sexual activity is a trigger for you?

If you notice that you often begin to experience symptoms of migraine shortly after having sex, that’s a pretty good indicator.

Actual sex headaches are easier to self-diagnose. These types of headaches come on hard and fast, unlike migraine attacks which have a more gradual onset.

Sex headaches are also pretty intense, and start at the most inopportune time — like while you’re in the throes of passion or just about to climax.

Symptoms to watch out for are:

  • a dull ache in your head that intensifies as your sexual excitement increases
  • a severe, throbbing headache just before or as you orgasm

The severe pain associated with sex headaches can last from a minute to around 24 hours, sometimes followed by milder pain that can linger for up to 72 hours.

Unlike with migraine, sex headaches usually don’t cause aura symptoms, like vision disturbances or nausea.

At what point should you see a doctor about your symptoms?

Sex and orgasm headaches aren’t usually serious but they can be a symptom of an underlying condition.

See a doctor if this is your first time getting a headache during sex or if you experience a severe headache that begins abruptly or lasts more than 24 hours.

In rare cases, a sex headache could be a sign of serious medical emergency, such as stroke.

Call your local emergency services or go to the nearest emergency room if your sex headache is accompanied by:

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