Anecdotal evidence suggests that sexual activity could help alleviate headaches, but scientific research has not confirmed this. Instead, it seems that having sex may cause or worsen headaches in some people.
This article describes whether sex can help with headaches and whether it depends on the type of headache a person experiences. We also investigate how sex may help with headaches and provide some alternative methods for headache relief.
Finally, we ask whether sex can cause headaches and whether a person should see a doctor for headaches that occur during or after sex.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that sex can help to alleviate headaches in some people. However, the scientific evidence for these claims is somewhat weak.
For example, an older
However, given the unreliability of self-reports and the small sample size, the study does not provide sufficient evidence that sex helps to alleviate headaches.
Among the 304 people with migraine who responded to the questionnaire, 34% had sex during a migraine attack. Within this group, 60% reported that their migraine attack improved. Of those who experienced an 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 figures are different for the cluster headache group. Of the 96 people with cluster headaches who responded to the questionnaire, 31% had sex during a cluster headache attack. Within this group, 37% reported that their cluster headache attack improved.
Of those who experienced an 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 may lead to partial or complete headache relief in some individuals with migraine and in a few individuals with cluster headaches. However, it appears that sexual activity may worsen cluster headaches for the majority of people with this type of headache.
Ultimately, further research involving larger sample sizes and methods other than self-report is necessary to determine whether and to what extent sexual activity may improve different types of headaches.
It is possible that sex could improve headaches in some people. However, scientists remain uncertain as to how this process might work.
One suggestion is that sexual activity
Another possibility is that sexual arousal and orgasm
More research is necessary to determine the mechanism via which sex may help to alleviate headaches.
The evidence suggesting that sex may help to alleviate headaches remains poor. However, a
- taking over-the-counter painkillers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
- taking corticosteroids for migraine
- receiving high flow oxygen therapy for cluster headaches
It is worth remembering that
There are two main types of sex-related headaches: pre-orgasmic and post-orgasmic. The former account for around
As such, a person who experiences sex-related headaches alongside any other concerning symptoms should contact their doctor, as there may be an underlying issue that needs addressing.
A sex-related headache is not a serious condition in and of 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 may cause headaches include:
- aneurysms, which may occur after sexual activity in
- aortic dissection
- reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome
There is currently insufficient evidence to suggest that having sex can alleviate headaches. Indeed, some evidence suggests that sex can cause headaches in some people and may worsen headaches in others.
According to the available research, it seems that sex is most likely to alleviate headaches in people who experience migraine. It may be less effective in alleviating headaches in people who experience cluster headaches.
Anyone who routinely experiences a new headache or a worsening headache during or following sex or other physical activity should contact their doctor.
Those who experience a sudden and severe headache alongside other concerning symptoms should seek urgent medical attention.