Yes Dear, Tonight! I Have a Headache

Can having sex ease the pain in your aching head? Remarkably, the answer may be yes. It goes both ways. According to researchers, an orgasm can make a migraine worse, or it might relieve a migraine.

Two Studies, Interesting Results

One study looked at feedback from both migraine sufferers and cluster headache sufferers. Of 103 migraine sufferers (men and women) who had sexual activity during a migraine:

  • Yes Dear, Tonight! I Have a Headache small60 percent reported an improvement. (Of those, 70 percent described the relief as “moderate to complete.”)
  • 33 percent said sexual activity made their migraine worse.

Of 30 cluster headache sufferers who had sexual activity during a headache:

  • 37 percent said sex improved their headache (Of those, 91 percent described the relief as “moderate to complete”).
  • 50 percent said that sex made their headache worse.

A different study at the Headache Clinic at Southern Illinois University (SIU) asked female migraine sufferers what effect orgasm had on their headaches.

  • 47 percent reported complete migraine relief.
  • 48 percent had no relief.
  • 4 percent said orgasm made their migraine worse.

Sex Can Be a Headache Trigger

This study also found that for some, sex actually causes a headache. But if these headaches aren’t a symptom of a serious health issue, you might be able to avoid them by taking medications one or two hours before sex. Your doctor can advise you on which medications are best.

Which is Faster: Meds or Sex?

For those who said that orgasm provided migraine relief, SIU researchers went one step further. They asked which provided the faster relief: an orgasm or medication? Orgasm was faster, according to the majority.

Don’t Be Shy

Talking about sex with your physician may be uncomfortable, but “what is discussed in a doctor visit is confidential and professional,” says neurologist and headache specialist Richard Kim, MD, Premier Health Clinical Neuroscience Institute. “We really want to help our patients, and in order to do that the best, we need to know relevant details regarding their headaches,” he reminds patients. “Sometimes that may include uncomfortable topics such as sexual activity.”

Multiple sudden and severe headaches during sex “are a red flag; it needs to be evaluated,” says Dr. Kim. After ruling out other causes of the headaches, some advice Dr. Kim provides patients are:

Take a more passive role during sex if a headache starts to develop.

Take a more passive role during sex if a headache starts to develop.

  • If a certain position seems to cause the headache, avoid that position.
  • If needed, medications can be used to either prevent the headache from occurring, and/or treat a headache when it happens.
Small Steps: Limit Over-the-Counter Meds
Limit your use of OTC painkillers to no more than 2 a week.