Can an Orgasm Cure My Headache?

How sexual climax can either ease or cause headaches or migraine

Having an orgasm may help relieve headaches in some people, suggests a 2013 article published in the journal Cephalalgia. Though the cause of this phenomenon is unclear, some researchers suggest that the rush of endorphins and other hormones after an orgasm may spontaneously ease headaches, including migraine headaches and cluster headaches.

But this shouldn't suggest that having sex is the headache cure-all for all people. In some cases, having an orgasm could trigger a migraine or cluster headache, a condition commonly referred to as a "coital headache" or "orgasmic headache."

This article explores how sex and headaches are linked and whether an orgasm might be the cause or cure of headache pain.

Gender Definitions

For the purpose of this article, "male" refers to people with penises and "female" refers to people with vaginas irrespective of the gender or genders they identify with.

Orgasms and Headaches

For some people, orgasms can either cause or relieve headaches, and scientists are not exactly sure why this is. According to the study published in Cephalalgia, the incidence of symptoms or symptom clearance varied by the headache type:

  • Migraine: Among the 380 people with migraine, 33% experienced a worsening of symptoms and 60% reported an improvement in symptoms during sex. Of those who experience an improvement, 70% reported complete relief.
  • Cluster headaches: Among 480 patients with clustered headaches, 50% experienced the worsening of symptoms and 37% reported an improvement in symptoms during sex.

Males were more likely than females to experience headache relief with sex, and many regarded sex and orgasm as a "therapeutic tool."

How Orgasms Might Help

The science behind orgasms is complex, and their impact on headache relief is unclear. Even so, scientists believe that it involves a complex interplay of hormones and spinal nerves.

Also known as a climax, an orgasm is the sudden discharge of sexual excitement, resulting in involuntary, rhythmic contractions in the pelvic area.

Physiologically, orgasms start with the activation of nerves around the lumbar and sacral spinal cord located at the lower back and tailbone. They end with the spontaneous release of hormones called oxytocin and endorphins that help calm and relax you as you recover from a climax.

Both oxytocin and endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and hypothalamus of the brain and both are involved in nociception (in which impulses from stimulated nerves are translated into physical sensations).

On their own and together, oxytocin and endorphins decrease pain sensitivity at times of stress. This is especially true with endorphins, which studies have shown are lacking in migraine sufferers.

This may explain why some headaches will spontaneously lift during an orgasm.

How Orgasms Might Hurt

For some people, sexual activity can cause headaches. Some may be classified as a benign exertional headache, a common type of headache brought on by vigorous activity, including sex. These tend to be mild and short-lasting, triggered by the sudden dilation (widening) of blood vessels in the head.

Other sexual headaches may not be as mild or short-lasting. These include coital headaches, a rare type of headache characterized by sudden and increasing pain in the skull and neck during sexual activity.

A coital headache is characterized by the following features and characteristics:

  • The headache is either brought on by sex or only occurs during sex.
  • The headache pain either increases with sexual excitement, occurs at the time of orgasm, or both.
  • Severe episodes can last up to 24 hours, while milder episodes can last for up to 72 hours.

To make a definitive diagnosis, all other causes of headaches must be explored and excluded. This is may involve imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or magnetic resonance angiography (MRA).

Coital headaches are more common in males than females.

What a Coital Headache Feels Like

A coital headache can vary in how it feels, where it occurs, and how long it lasts.

In most cases, the headache will develop suddenly at the time of orgasm and be severe and throbbing. Usually, one side of the head is affected as well as the neck. This is referred to as a sudden-onset type headache.

In other cases, the pain will be felt on the back and both sides of the head and gradually increase with sexual arousal. The pain may be milder but occur in frequent, irregular bursts. This is known as a subacute crescendo headache.

On rare occasions, a headache can occur after sex due to minor injury of the dura mater (the membrane covering the brain and spinal cord). This can cause a pooling of cerebrospinal fluid, leading to headache pain and nausea whenever you stand up. This is better known as a postural headache.

All of these headaches can be aggravating but none are particularly serious. Some people may have only one episode, while others have recurrent headaches. People with chronic migraines are more likely to have recurrent episodes.

Treatment of Coital Headaches

While there are no established guidelines for the treatment of coital headaches, your healthcare provider may prescribe a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) called indomethacin if you have recurrent episodes. Indomethacin is commonly used to treat arthritis and may help prevent headache pain if taken one to two hours before sex.

If the problem persists, daily preventive drugs may be taken. This may include a drug called Topamax (topiramate) commonly used to treat migraines and epilepsy.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Colleen Doherty, MD
 Colleen Doherty, MD, is a board-certified internist living with multiple sclerosis.