Sex Headaches YES, YES – Oh Noooo!

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Today, we’re tackling a topic that might be a little sensitive, but it’s important to discuss because it can significantly affect one’s quality of life and intimate relationships. I often receive letters from folks who experience headaches during intimate moments, much like this one from a reader in Florida:

I get headaches during sex. It’s not all the time, but I’m worried. It takes the fun out of it. My doctor said don’t worry. But I do.

Orgasmic headaches or “sex headaches” affect about 1 in 100 people. They can happen any time during lovemaking. Most people get a sudden, sharp headache right at the Big O, as in orgasm. The headache comes on suddenly and it’s severe. I suspect migraineurs and clusterheads are more prone to sex headaches, although they have no aura, stars, blurriness, no halo, nothing. Lots of you have sworn off sex due to sex headaches, but I have some solutions for you. 

Before I forget, I’ve written a lot about headaches. Consider using my search box to find more articles. Here’s just one about how CHEESE CAUSES HEADACHES. 

Coital Cephalagia

Sex-related headaches, also known as coital cephalalgia or orgasmic headaches, can be a frightening phenomenon, especially if it’s the first time. It’s estimated that about 1 in 100 people might experience these intense headaches that can occur during any point of sexual activity, but they are particularly common at the moment of orgasm.

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Clinical Insights into Sex Headaches

These headaches are typically acute, starting suddenly and peaking within a minute or two. They might originate at the base of the skull and radiate towards the front of the head. Although anyone can experience them, individuals who suffer from migraines or cluster headaches might be more susceptible. Unlike migraines, sex headaches usually lack visual disturbances or auras and are relatively short-lived.

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Interestingly, they can be triggered not only by sexual activity but also by other forms of exertion such as exercise, or even severe coughing spells. This might lead you to fear and stress so much about it like you’re having an aneurysm or something, however, these headaches are benign. Any pain specialist will concur! That said, it’s crucial to undergo any recommended diagnostic tests to rule out other underlying issues in your brain.

A study out of Russia involving 19 individuals who suffered from these headaches provided further insights.

Researchers found that a significant number experienced headaches during foreplay, not just at orgasm, with a few cases lasting up to 24 hours. The suspected cause? A combination of venous outflow disturbance and an antinociceptive system dysfunction, which involves issues with blood vessels around the brain and pain regulation mechanisms. It’s also thought that an increase in arterial blood pressure during sexual excitement, coupled with physical tension, might contribute to these headaches.

Research and Studies

Some experts suggest endothelial dysfunction and low nitric oxide (NO) levels might also play a role. People take arginine supplements to raise levels of nitric oxide. NO helps regulate vascular tone, so an imbalance can lead to headaches. You can check NO levels by using urine testing strips and adjusting estrogen and thyroid hormones if necessary, to maintain optimal vascular health because all of those hormones are inter-connected.

There was a STUDY ublished in Cephalalgia that explored headaches in people with other risk factors, for example, cluster headaches. Researchers sent out a hush-hush survey to 1,000 headache sufferers to get the lowdown on their experiences with sex during headache episodes. They found that about a third of migraine patients who tried a little lovemaking during an attack actually felt better – 60% of them noted improvement, and quite a few experienced significant relief. On the flip side, some did feel worse, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.

As for those with cluster headaches, fewer patients reported improvement, but those who did often saw major relief. However, half reported no change or worsening symptoms, indicating this remedy’s effectiveness can vary widely.

Intriguingly, some gutsy guys with migraines even started using sex as a go-to relief method! While it’s not the most conventional painkiller, and definitely not a universal cure, this study suggests that sexual activity might just have a place in the pain management toolbox for some migraine and cluster headache sufferers.

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10 Tips to Prevent Sex-Related Headaches:

  1. Pre-Medication: Taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory like 500mg of acetaminophen or 400mg of ibuprofen about an hour before sexual activity might help.
  2. Relax: Try to maintain a relaxed approach during sex to avoid excessive physical strain. 
  3. Pace Yourself: While it might seem counterintuitive, sometimes shortening the duration to reach orgasm can prevent prolonged high blood pressure that contributes to headaches.
  4. Medications: Ask your doctor about prescription drugs like beta blockers such as propranolol, metoprolol, and nadolol. Alternatively you can try foods with natural beta-blocking properties such as bananas, celery, and chamomile.
    Other potential preventive treatments include taking indomethacin and triptans 30 to 60 minutes before sexual activity. Those are both prescription drugs. Sometimes they’re combined with beta-blockers. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention other effective treatment options such as diltiazem, nimodipine, or topiramate.
  5. Progesterone: If you’re low on this hormone, consider using progesterone cream or supplements under medical guidance. This is best taken as an oral pill “progesterone” which is not the same as medroxyprogesterone.
  6. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can contribute to headaches, so ensure you’re well-hydrated.
  7. Regular Exercise: Maintaining a routine that includes regular cardiovascular exercise can improve overall vascular health.
  8. Manage Stress: High stress can exacerbate headaches, including those triggered by sexual activity.
  9. Massage and Relaxation Techniques: Regular massage and relaxation techniques can reduce muscle tension and prevent headaches in general. 
  10. Find your Migrenade: I made up this word which describes the thing you eat, drink or do that causes a migraine. I wrote about it in my paperback book, Headache Free. You can also use my search box and type in that term to find articles describing the most common migrenades. Sex is a migrenade in people who have this type of coital headache.
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Wrapping Up

If you’re experiencing sex-related headaches, it’s important not to ignore them. While they are usually not a sign of something more serious, understanding your body’s signals and taking preventive steps can help you maintain both your sexual health and overall well-being. Always communicate with your healthcare provider about your symptoms and any concerns you have. Remember, your health matters, in every aspect of life!