Buddhism facts

Sex and headaches: what are the facts?

Although there is anecdotal evidence that sexual activity may help relieve headaches in some people, there is very little scientific evidence to support this idea. Indeed, some evidence suggests that having sex can cause headaches in a small number of people and can make existing headaches worse in others.

This article describes whether sex can help relieve headaches, and whether it depends on the type of headache a person is experiencing. We also study how sex can help relieve headaches and provide alternative methods for headache relief.

Finally, we ask if sex can cause headaches and if a person should see a doctor for headaches that occur during or after sex.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that sex may help relieve headaches in some people. However, the scientific evidence for these claims is somewhat weak.

For example, a former 2006 study presents two separate case studies of men who said sex helped relieve their cluster headaches. In one case, masturbation also had the same effect.

However, given the unreliability of self-reports and the small sample size, the study does not provide sufficient evidence that sex helps relieve headaches.

an older one 2013 study suggests that sex may be more helpful for some types of headaches than others. The researchers sent a questionnaire to 1,000 people enrolled in a headache clinic, 800 of whom suffered from migraine, while the other 200 suffered from cluster headaches.

Of the 304 migraine sufferers who responded to the questionnaire, 34% had had sex during a migraine attack. Within this group, 60% said that their migraine attack had improved. Of those who experienced improvement, 70% reported moderate to complete relief.

The study reports that 33% of responders who had sex experienced a worsening of their migraine symptoms.

These numbers are different for the cluster headache group. Of the 96 people with cluster headaches who responded to the questionnaire, 31% had had sex during a cluster headache attack. Within this group, 37% said their cluster headache attack had improved.

Of those who experienced improvement, 91% reported moderate to complete relief.

The study reports that 50% of responders who had sex experienced a worsening of their cluster headache symptoms.

The study authors concluded that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete headache relief in some migraine sufferers and in a few cluster headache sufferers. However, it appears that sexual activity can make cluster headaches worse in the majority of people with this type of headache.

Ultimately, more research involving larger samples and methods other than self-report are needed to determine whether and to what extent sexual activity can improve different types of headaches.

It’s possible that sex can improve headaches in some people. However, scientists remain uncertain as to how this process might work.

One suggestion is that sexual activity could activate certain activity patterns in the brain, which can inhibit pain.

Another possibility is that sexual arousal and orgasm strength reduce pain by triggering the release of endorphins in the brain. These are chemicals that help relieve pain and stress.

More research is needed to determine the mechanism by which sex may help relieve headaches.

The evidence suggesting that sex can help relieve headaches remains weak. However, a 2021 review notes that there are several proven treatments for headaches, including:

It is worth remembering that many headaches get better over time.

A Case Report 2017 notes that headaches associated with sexual activity may affect between 1% and 1.6% of the general population.

Moreover, the 2013 study reports that sex may worsen migraine attacks in approximately 33% people and aggravate cluster headaches in approximately 50% of people.

There are two main types of sex-related headaches: pre-orgasmic and post-orgasmic. The former represent approximately 20% sex-related headaches, with post-orgasmic headaches accounting for the remainder 80%.

A 2021 review explains that headaches that occur during or after sex usually do not occur with other symptoms.

As such, a person who experiences sex-related headaches in addition to any other concerning symptoms should contact their doctor, as there may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.

A sex-related headache is not a serious illness in itself. However, the authors of the 2021 review stress the importance of differentiating sex-related headaches from more serious causes of headaches.

Some serious underlying medical conditions that can cause headaches include:

There is currently not enough evidence to suggest that sex can relieve headaches. Indeed, some evidence suggests that sex can cause headaches in some people and can make headaches worse in others.

According to available research, it appears that sex is most likely to relieve headaches in migraine sufferers. It may be less effective in relieving headaches in people with cluster headaches.

Anyone who regularly experiences a new or worsening headache during or after sex or other physical activity should contact their doctor.

Those who experience a sudden, severe headache along with other concerning symptoms should seek emergency medical attention.