The researchers aren’t sure why this happens, but hypothesize that the rush of endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers, during sex may numb the pain of migraines.
Many stimuli, from sunlight to lightning, can trigger migraines. Meanwhile, about 1 percent of the population suffers from headaches caused by sex, Evers told LiveScience.
Doctors had previously reported that sex relieves migraines, but those results were based on small studies.
To see whether this phenomenon was borne out on a larger scale, Evers and his colleagues sent 800 patients who had migraines and 200 patients with cluster headaches a questionnaire about their experiences with sexual activity during headache attacks, and how sex affected the pain intensity.
About four in 10 of the surveyed patients responded.
Results showed that about a third of patients engaged in sexual activity during a migraine or cluster headache. Of migraine sufferers, 60 percent experienced relief, with the majority of those patients reporting a moderate or complete amount of pain relief. For a third of the responding patients, sex worsened the migraines.
Among patients with cluster headaches, about a third reported total or partial relief, while about 50 percent said their headaches worsened.
Evers suspects the bodies of those who experienced complete pain relief from migraines may be more likely to release endorphins during sex.
“The same people who release endorphins from extreme sports activity, so a triathlon or marathon, it might be that these are the patients who release endorphins during sexual activity,” Evers told LiveScience.
While doctors have suspected that sex could relieve migraines for years, this is the first time that such a large cohort of patients has been studied, said Alexander Mauskop, a neurologist and director of the New York Headache Center, who was not involved in the study.
Also, while canoodling may be a good way to feel close to a partner, it probably won’t relieve migraine pain, Mauskop said. In fact, many migraine sufferers don’t like to be touched when they have the headaches, because the episodes make them sensitive to light, noises and other sensations, he said.
The orgasm, and the resulting rush of endorphins, probably turns off the migraine pain, so even masturbation may be helpful, Mauskop said. For those who experience relief from migraines during sex, “having an orgasm in any way shape or form will help,” he told LiveScience.
Follow Tia Ghose @tiaghose. Follow LiveScience @LiveScience, Facebook or Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.
- Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex and Migraines (But Were Afraid to Ask!)
- Headaches Associated With Sex Are No Joke
- Hold off the Headache
- 1. Headaches
- 2. Hiccups
- 3. Morning Sickness
- 4. PMS Cramps
- Does Sex Ease Migraines or Trigger Them?
- Why sex is a ‘better headache cure rather than painkillers’
- 7 Tips for Better Sex If You Have Migraine
- Comments? Do your migraines interfere with your sex life?
- Sex proves itself useful, cures headaches
- Can sex cure a headache? Finally, we have an answer
Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex and Migraines (But Were Afraid to Ask!)
36 Million Migraineurs in the US alone may think they have a built in reason for avoiding sexual relations, but it’s not always a headache. A study from the University of Munster in Germany, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23430983 with a large sample (about 400 people ) uncovered some interesting results. They surveyed both migraineurs and those that suffered cluster headaches.
Our Teutonic Colleagues distributed a survey to one thousand patients diagnosed with either migraines or cluster headaches. The subjects were divided into 800 migraineurs and 200 cluster headache sufferers. The subjects confirmed the accepted thinking: most migraine patients are women, and most cluster headaches, are experienced by the male of the species.
40 percent of the test subjects responded to the survey, which is a superb response rate. Here are some of the conclusions the surveys yielded:
Around a third of migraineurs find sex as a reliable way to relieve headache pain.
About 60 percent of migraineurs reported total or at least considerable relief after sexual relations
Cluster headache sufferers described similar results.
So why does sex seem to play such a critical role? Nobody really knows for sure but there are several explanations worth considering.
A majority of the research community believes that migraines and cluster headaches are closely related to the neurochemistry of our bodies. Specifically, orgasms or the “climax”, stimulate the production of endorphins, a marvelous neurochemical compound of the brain that looks and acts like naturally occurring (endogenous) opioids, those sought after pain killers whose use pre-dates much historical record. Endorphins act like opioids in our brains, and they provide rapid pain relief that is even faster than IV morphine! You may have read about endorphins in the context of hard exercise (“runner’s high”) or in the central nervous system dopamine reward pathway. Or maybe not. To put it in a simple equation: sexual orgasm=endorphin production=pain relief or analgesia.
Serotonin, a neurotransmitter of SSRI/anti-depressant fame is also released during sexual relations. It is thought that the positive feelings accompanying sex may in part be attributed to serotonin release.
So that’s the good news regarding sex and migraines. Unfortunately for about 40 percent of the migraineurs who answered the survey, sex does not provide relief. Even worse it may trigger a migraine/cluster event. There are two possible explanations for this: first is the physical activity that accompanies sexual activity especially involving muscle tissue in the back and the neck, and second is the relationship between stress, excitability and mood.
These last two areas are not well understood and require considerably more research. The same answer, in this case sex, will not work equally well for all people, if at all. However for the 40% for whom sex does not immediately appear to be the answer, perhaps a gentle exploration that moderates certain types of physical activity and emotional excitability may prove fruitful.
Headaches Associated With Sex Are No Joke
“Many people who experience headaches during sexual activity are too embarrassed to tell their physicians, and doctors often don’t ask,” said José Biller, MD, Chair of the Department of Neurology with the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and certified in Headache Medicine by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties. Sexual activity is comparable to mild- to moderate-intensity exercise, he noted.
“Headaches associated with sexual activity can be extremely painful and scary,” Dr Biller said. “They also can be very frustrating, both to the individual suffering the headache and to the partner.”
About 1% of adults report that they have experienced headaches associated with sexual activity and that such headaches can be severe. But the actual incidence is certainly higher, Dr Biller noted.
Headaches usually are caused by disorders such as migraines or tension, and the vast majority of headaches associated with sexual activity are benign. But headaches also can be secondary to other life-threatening conditions. In a small percentage of cases, these headaches can result from a serious underlying condition, such as a hemorrhage, brain aneurysm, stroke, cervical artery dissection, or subdural hematoma. “We recommend that patients undergo a thorough neurological evaluation to rule out secondary causes, which can be life-threatening,” Dr Biller said. “This is especially important when the headache is a first occurrence.”
In 2004, the International Headache Society classified headaches associated with sexual activity as a distinct form of primary headache. The following are the 3 main types of sex-related headaches:
• A dull ache in the head and neck that begins before orgasm and gets worse as sexual arousal increases. It is similar to a tension headache.
• An intensely painful headache that begins during orgasm and can last for hours. This so-called thunderclap headache grabs attention because it comes on like a clap of thunder. Dr Biller said patients describe this headache as “all of a sudden, there was a terrific pain in the back of my head. It was like someone hit me with a hammer.”
• A headache that occurs after sex and can range from mild to extremely painful. This headache gets worse when the patient stands and lessens when the patient lies back down. The cause is an internal leak of spinal fluid, which extends down from the skull into the spine. When there is a leak in the fluid, the brain sags downward when the patient stands, causing pain, he explained.
Dr Biller said men are 3 to 4 times more likely to get headaches associated with sexual activity than women. Depending on the type of headache, medications can help relieve the pain or even prevent the headache, he said.
To reduce the risk of headaches associated with sexual activity, doctors should counsel patients to exercise regularly, avoid excessive alcohol intake, maintain a healthy weight and, if necessary, seek counseling, Dr Biller said.
Hold off the Headache
Some people, especially those with chronic migraine headaches, may need preventive medicines. If yours happen often, ask your doctor if there’s something you can take to help stop them.
People with chronic headaches have higher levels of depression and anxiety than those who don’t get them. If you have either mood disorder and get it treated, that could boost your enthusiasm in the bedroom.
About 75% of people who get migraine headaches are women. If that’s you, know that changes in hormone levels right before your period often trigger headaches. Knowing it’s cyclical gives you an idea of when a migraine may throw a wrench in your love-making.
For some women, taking birth control pills improves migraines, but for others, that can make them worse. Sometimes switching to a different type of pill helps.
Many people do better when they stay on a regular schedule for meals and sleep. Daily exercise and drinking lots of water can help, too.
“Lifestyle factors can have a profound impact on the condition,” Cohen says.
While being spontaneous might seem romantic, a “migraine doesn’t do very well with change,” he says.
When we have an ache or a pain, we go to the doctor, get our meds, and call it a night. But there is a step we often miss in between lying in bed and going to sleep — having an orgasm. The “big O” is not just a fun way to spend a night; it also contains great healing properties that treat anything from headaches to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) cramps.
An orgasm is “the miracle cure” to staying healthy and balanced. Natural chemicals such as dopamine, endorphins, and serotonin are released during an orgasm, making us feel happy, flushed, warm, or sleepy, says Brown University Health Promotion. When they enter the bloodstream, these chemicals can induce both pleasure-enhancing and pain-relieving sensations.
Our pain threshold raises during an orgasm, making us more equipped to block the pain. This can help us lessen some of life’s more common pains and discomforts. Next time you have pain, aim for an orgasm instead of reaching for an aspirin. It’s a free, fun, healthy way to alleviate some of life’s most common ailments.
Next time you have a headache, reach for your partner and not the medicine cabinet. Orgasms can relieve migraine pain or cluster headaches, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Cephalalgia. The researchers found you get relief no matter who your partner is, which position you use, or which type of sexual activity you engage in. However, achieving a full orgasm is necessary in alleviating the pain.
A case of the hiccups that just won’t go away no matter what you do could physically and mentally drain you. Before you take a spoonful of peanut butter or try to scare yourself silly, try to have an orgasm instead. A 2000 case report published in the journal Canadian Family Physician said a healthy 40-year-old man made his intractable hiccups disappear for 12 months when he reached the moment of ejaculation during intercourse. This also works for women, according to a 1990 study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, which found “digital rectal massage” and orgasms can be a cure-all for intractable hiccups. The vagus nerve needs to be stimulated to alleviate hiccups, which is done during sex.
3. Morning Sickness
Sex is what gave you morning sickness, and it can also be what alleviates it. Gordon Gallup, a SUNY-Albany psychologist, believes in the “hair of the dog” concept when it comes to curing morning sickness — ingesting semen, specifically the impregnator’s semen, so the woman’s body can build up a tolerance to what’s already in her body.
Gallup, who presented his findings at the 2012 Northeastern Evolutionary Psychology Society, proposed the woman’s body initially rejects the father’s semen as an infection and reacts to it by vomiting, the NY Daily News reported. However, the woman will become immune to the semen by swallowing it and could ebb morning sickness in subsequent pregnancies if the second child has the same father as the first. This remedy proposes oral sex may treat one of the most troubling symptoms of pregnancy.
4. PMS Cramps
Cramps can be one of the most temporary debilitating symptoms women experience every month. Before an orgasm, a woman’s uterus is more relaxed, but at the moment of climax, the blood flow increases, helping to relieve the cramps. The uterine muscles contract during an orgasm while releasing chemicals in the brain that act as a natural pain reliever. Judith Golden, a registered sex therapist in Toronto, told Best Health magazine, “The strength and intensity of an orgasm can relieve cramps.” Women who masturbate often report it helps relieve menstrual cramps and even improve the symptoms of PMS, such as irritability and crankiness.
Orgasm therapy can keep you healthy, fit, and pain-free without the need for going to the medicine cabinet.
Does Sex Ease Migraines or Trigger Them?
Sometimes, sex can be the best thing for a headache. iStock
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It’s an age-old excuse: “Not tonight, honey. I have a headache.” But the next time you feel an actual migraine coming on, sex might be the best remedy.
Sound too good to be true? Research backs up the finding: A study published in February 2013 in the journal Cephalagia found that 60 percent of people who had sex during a migraine attack experienced some improvement in their headache symptoms.
One theory is that sex may distract people from their pain. Another is that sex — in particular, an orgasm — releases endorphins, which can also help relieve pain, says Alexander Mauskop, MD, director and founder of the New York Headache Center. Endorphins, which are opiate-like chemicals, are associated with a happy, positive feeling and can keep pain messages from reaching the brain, he explains. Unlike pain medications, which can take up to 15 minutes to kick in, these chemicals can work almost instantly.
Other people aren’t as lucky. Like exercise, sex is a physical activity, which can put pressure on a person’s back and neck, bringing on a migraine. Plus, sex can increase blood pressure and cause a dilation of the cerebral blood vessels, which can also trigger an attack.
“Headaches during sex are most often seen in people with migraines because these people have a genetic predisposition to develop headaches already,” says Mark W. Green, MD, a professor of neurology, anesthesiology, and rehabilitation medicine and the director of the Center for Headache and Pain Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. (Although most migraine symptoms are similar — sensitivity to light, sound, and certain smells; nausea; and a constant, throbbing pain — migraine causes are different for each person.)
According to Dr. Green, sex can cause three different types of headaches — explosive, tension, or positional — which can all lead to migraines
The most common type of headache triggered by sex is the explosive headache, which occurs at the point of orgasm and can have similar symptoms to those of a brain hemorrhage. Anyone who experiences this type of headache for the first time should talk to a medical professional immediately after the incident to rule out a hemorrhage or other brain injury as the cause of the headache, says Green.
A tension headache — usually caused by stress, including tension that is brought on by the act of sex — feels more constrictive and usually goes away within 20 minutes.
The rarer positional headache (which can occur from spinal surgery or an epidural) can be harder to diagnose. Doctors may treat them with IV fluids — caffeine and anti-nausea drugs. But fortunately, most positional headaches are mild; they tend to last only 24 hours and usually do not require treatment. However, if you’ve recently had spinal surgery or an epidural and you experience this type of headache, you should consult your physician.
Keep in mind that sex is only one possible trigger — or remedy — for a migraine. Talk to your doctor about other ways to keep pain at bay.
Why sex is a ‘better headache cure rather than painkillers’
“The majority of patients with migraine or cluster headache do not have sexual activity during headache attacks,” the study concluded.
“Our data suggest, however, that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and a few cluster headache patients.
“Our results show that sexual activity during a migraine attack might relieve or even stop an attack in some cases, and that sexual activity in the presence of headache is not an unusual behaviour.”
They added: “Sex can abort migraine and cluster headache attacks, and sexual activity is used by some patients as acute headache treatment.”
In their research, titled “The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: An observational study”, the team of neurologists investigated whether sex can trigger headaches.
They also wanted to establish whether there was any substance to anecdotal suggestions that it could actually ease symptoms of migraine and cluster, also known as one-sided, headaches.
An anonymous questionnaire was sent to 800 random migraine patients and 200 similar cluster headache sufferers.
They asked for experience with sexual activity during a headache attack and its impact on headache intensity.
More than a third of migraine patients had experience with sexual activity during an attack and out of these patients, almost two in three reported an “improvement of their migraine attack”.
Almost three in four reported moderate to complete relief and a third reported it worsening.
Those suffering a cluster headache, almost a third had experience with sexual activity, with 37 per cent reporting an improvement to their condition. More than 90 per cent reported moderate to complete relief while 50 reported worsening.
The researchers added: “Some patients, in particular male migraine patients, even used sexual activity as a therapeutic tool.”
7 Tips for Better Sex If You Have Migraine
Focusing on fun and romance when you feel up to it will help your sex life and your relationship. Image: Sam Stanton/flickr
6. Commit to Romance – You may not always feel up for sex, but romance takes less physical stamina and helps build the intimacy for sex when you feel like it. Put romantic dates on your calendar, like a picnic, romantic movie, fireside massage, midnight swim, dinner out, or moonlit stroll. That’ll build anticipation and can be easily rescheduled without expense if an attack strikes.
7. Celebrate Your Good Days with Sex – If your calendar has more bad days than good ones, you need to really enjoy those feel-good days with more feel-good activities. It’s a great way to fill the Fun Bank with your partner in anticipation of tough days to come.
Much more needs to be learned in order to treat sexual symptoms effectively. If you’re interested in joining a clinical trial, you may receive free treatment and possibly earn money for your contributions to Migraine science. Migraine Again is helping to recruit participants from our membership, so join here to get considered for a study in your area.
While not everyone who suffers from Migraine has sexual issues with Migraine, many do. If it’s important to you and important to your spouse or partner, start taking steps today to improve your sex life. You deserve to fully enjoy life’s pleasures!
Comments? Do your migraines interfere with your sex life?
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Sex proves itself useful, cures headaches
The release of oxytocin, another natural painkiller, at orgasm probably doesn’t hurt either. Unfortunately, though, what might hurt migraine-havers is having someone else touch and otherwise disturb them while they’re resting and waiting out the storm. For these people, Evers suggested masturbation because, as he told LiveScience, “having an orgasm in any way shape or form will help.”
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Could sex make a headache worse?
In this study, 50 percent of people with cluster headaches said sex only exacerbated the situation. And according to Wider, sex actually brings on headaches in some people. The Mayo Clinic reports that some sufferers will feel painful pressure build leading up to orgasm, while others experience a sudden onset of cranial pain just before or as they climax.
Coital cephalalgia surfaces in men more often than it does in women, and luckily, it’s usually benign. However, some possible causes include hemorrhage, aneurysm, stroke, or arterial complications. Not eating enough magnesium could contribute to the development of sex headaches, as can low blood pressure and a history of migraines.
“Every person has a different reason why they have a headache, what their triggers are, and what’s going to be a successful treatment for them,” Wider said. “It’s not a one size fits all, and that’s why it’s confusing.” But, she adds, some headache sufferers will definitely derive relief from sexual healing. The best way to know is to just give it a whirl next time a headache strikes.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Can sex cure a headache? Finally, we have an answer
We already know some of the health benefits of sex: the NHS points out that it’s good for your heart, eases stress and tension, lowers blood pressure, helps fend off illness AND reduces risk of angina and ulcers, which is a pretty impressive list when you think about it.
Anyway, it looks like sex has yet another health benefit: curing headaches.
Whether sex caused or exacerbated headaches or made them better has long been subject to debate – partly because “I have a headache” has been a perennial ‘getting out of sex’ excuse. But, according to numerous scientists and researchers, it could actually improve your headaches, not make them worse.
“It could be masturbation, it could be oral sex, it could be intercourse—as long as there’s an orgasm the body is going to release certain chemicals,” doctor Jennifer Wider told the Daily Dot.
And neurologist Hamid Sami told the Dot that two of the most common headaches – tension headaches and migraines – can be relieved by sex. Pain relief can last “between a few hours and a few days”, largely because of both “an orgasm’s relaxing properties” and “homegrown pain relievers” including endorphins and oxytocin.
A 2013 study in medical journal Cephalagia found similar evidence, observing that sex was able to relieve many of the symptoms of both migraines and cluster headaches for a third of patients.
“There’s a of patients with migraines, about one-third, who experience relief from a migraine attack by sexual activity,” said study researcher Stefan Evers at the time. “The same people who release endorphins from extreme sports activity, so a triathlon or marathon, it might be that these are the patients who release endorphins during sexual activity”.
Singletons don’t need to despair, either. The headache-curing properties don’t always come from sex per se: any orgasm will do.
Evers pointed out that the rush of endorphins from sexual intercourse can also be achieved through masturbation – so even if you’re single, you can benefit.
“It could be masturbation, it could be oral sex, it could be intercourse—as long as there’s an orgasm the body is going to release certain chemicals”
It’s not all good news though, Wider says. If you’re unlucky enough to get cluster headaches, sex is likely to make them worse – and sex can actually induce headaches in others.
“Every person has a different reason why they have a headache, what their triggers are, and what’s going to be a successful treatment for them,” she said. “It’s not a one size fits all, and that’s why it’s confusing.”
So next time you feel a headache coming on? Don’t reach for the paracetamol – give sex a go. It’s worth a try.
(Images: Getty / Pablo Heimplatz )