What Does Science Say About the Link Between Headaches and Sex?

Research into the link between sex and headaches is limited. Studies have found that sex-related headaches occur in around 1.5% of the population and a more common in men. Most people who suffer from sex-related headaches experience them after an orgasm, and only 20% of sufferers develop a headache in the lead-up to an orgasm. There is some evidence that sex may help reduce the symptoms of headaches, particularly for migraine sufferers.

Key takeaways:
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    Around 1.5% of people suffer from sex-related headaches. They are more common in men than women and are more likely to be experienced after an orgasm. There is no known cause.
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    For people suffering from a migraine, there is evidence to suggest that engaging in sexual activity may decrease the severity of symptoms.
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    While sex-related headaches are usually not associated with any serious illnesses, it is best to have them assessed by a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying causes.

Studies have found that sex-related headaches are relatively uncommon, occurring in approximately 1.5% of the adult population, with men more likely to report experiencing these headaches than women. Additionally, researchers have discovered that people who were middle-aged, infrequently exercised, moderately overweight, and moderately hypertensive were also more likely to report sex-related headaches.

Sex-related headaches are usually experienced post orgasm, with a 2020 study finding that 80% of people examined reported a headache after an orgasm, and 20% of people experienced a headache in the lead-up to orgasm. 40% of people who suffer from sex-related migraines will experience them for over a year.

Research into sex-related headaches is still in its infancy, and researchers are unable to determine a definitive cause.

Some findings suggest that sex-related headaches may be genetic, with one study finding four sisters who experienced these types of headaches and another studying finding that a mother and daughter both suffered from sex-related headaches. However, more research is needed to understand the causes of these types of headaches.

Can sex help treat a headache?

A 2013 study found that sex may be beneficial in treating certain types of headaches. Researchers in this study examined if sex could help relieve headaches for people who experience migraines and cluster headaches. To do this, they separated the headache types into groups and presented each research participant with a questionnaire.

The majority of the participants stated that they did not engage in sexual activity when experiencing a headache. However, of the people who had sex with a migraine, 60% reported that sex helped to alleviate the migraine. The 60% of people that reported an improvement experienced moderate to complete relief of their symptoms. 33% of the participants who had sex with migraine reported that sex increased their symptoms.

Of the people who had sex while experiencing a cluster headache, only 37% reported an improvement in their symptoms, with the majority of the 37% experiencing complete or moderate relief. 50% of people who had sex with a cluster headache reported that sex increased their symptoms.

This study suggests that sex may improve some people's migraine symptoms. However, more research is needed to confirm these results.

Do people experience sexual desire with a headache?

The 2013 study mentioned above found that while most participants did not wish to have sex when suffering from headaches, some of the research participants experienced sexual desire during this time and used sex as a therapeutic tool.

Another small study found similar evidence when examining if headache sufferers experienced sexual desire amid a headache. Researchers in this study discovered that people experiencing a migraine were 20% more likely to simultaneously experience sexual desire than those suffering from tension headaches. While the exact reason for the difference in sexual desire is still unknown, the researchers hypothesized that it might be related to serotonin. People with high levels of serotonin commonly experience low levels of sexual desire, and migraine sufferers have low levels of serotonin.

A recent analysis of the literature examining sex-related headaches found that in the majority of cases, the headaches were not a symptom of another illness and had an unknown cause. However, the researchers stressed the importance of seeking medical assistance to rule out life-threatening conditions.

A person experiencing any other symptoms alongside sex-related headaches should consult a healthcare professional.

Common treatments for sex-related headaches include the use of medications such as triptans, propranolol, and indomethacin. It is always best to consult a healthcare professional before using any medication.

Staying healthy by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and managing stress may also help to prevent sex-related headaches.

The literature on the link between sex and headaches is quite limited, and it is not yet known what causes sex-related headaches. However, studies have found that sex-related headaches are relatively uncommon and are more likely to occur in men than women and are more likely to occur after an orgasm. Sex may also help relieve the symptoms of a headache, particularly for those suffering from migraines. While many sex-related headaches are not a cause for concern, a person suffering from this type of headache should consult a healthcare professional to rule out any underlying issues.

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