We have all heard – or even used – the old excuse: Not tonight, honey. I have a headache. Sex and migraines have been linked together in this commonplace way to avoid intimacy, so much so that it’s almost impossible to take seriously.
However, recent studies have proven that the neurotransmitters and hormones released during orgasm may actually relieve headaches for some sufferers! When we saw the shocking statistics on sex and migraines, we thought we really have to be talking about this more. While sex might be the last thing on your mind at the onset of a migraine, it could be the simple, healthy, and all-natural home remedy you’ve been looking for.
Studies on Sex and Migraines
Several studies have examined the effects of sexual activity on headache symptoms. A 2013 study published in Cephalalgia examined the impact of sexual activity on 800 migraine sufferers. Of the patients who responded, 60% of them experienced some relief when engaging in sexual activity during an attack. 70% of those reported moderate to complete relief.
Another study conducted at the University of Illinois showed comparable results. Of 83 women who were surveyed, nearly 48% of respondents had some relief of their migraines symptoms with sexual activity. Of that 48%, 17.5% reported being completely pain-free.
Scientists are not completely sure why this happens, but they believe it is due to the release of endorphins that happens with sexual activity. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, interacting with the opiate receptors in the brain to decrease the sensation of pain. This produces a similar reaction to strong medical interventions such as codeine and morphine. Endorphins have also been proven to reduce feelings of stress and increase feelings of euphoria, useful for helping a patient relax during a migraine attack.
Advantages of Sexual Activity Over Conventional Treatment Methods
While getting intimate (even alone) might be the last thing on your mind when suffering from a migraine, it does have several advantages over traditional, drug-based treatments. These include:
- None of the side-effects associated with drug-use such as dependency, rebound headaches, and physical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, weight gain, or fatigue
- Reduced overall stress, which is often a trigger for migraines •Improved relationship with your partner
- Other benefits such as improved immunity, lowered blood pressure, and improved cardiovascular health
Getting in “the Mood”
Despite these benefits, it can be hard to “get in the mood” for sex when you are battling a headache. Not surprisingly, while the above studies revealed a positive correlation between sexual activity and reduced migraines symptoms, they also showed that most people do not even attempt to have sex when they are suffering from a migraine.
So how do you talk yourself into giving it a try when you may not feel up to it? Here are some suggestions:
- Think about the potential pain relief – what do you have to lose!
- Be open and honest with your partner, if you have one. You may not be your usual self when you are suffering from a headache. Discuss this with your partner, and don’t try to hide it. Chances are they are eager to help you find relief from your headache in any way that works for you.
- Take a shortcut. If you find it difficult to become aroused for sex when you have a headache, find some things to help set the mood or decrease arousal time.
- Maintain a healthy sexual relationship when you don’t have a headache. This will make it easier to get in the mood and have open lines of communication when you do have a headache.
- Just do it! Sometimes you need to just jump in and give it a try.
When Not to Try Sexual Activity as a Headache Treatment
Unfortunately, this may not be a solution for everyone. For some migraine sufferers, physical exertion may actually trigger headaches. If you have noticed that sex either brings about or worsens your headaches, then you may wish to abstain during an attack.
The studies cited above also indicate that sex may not be as effective for relieving cluster headaches as it is for migraines. In the larger study, of the respondents that suffered from cluster headaches, only 37% indicated that sexual activity helped relieved symptoms while 50% indicated it made symptoms worse. However, of the respondents who indicated relief, 91% of them reported moderate to complete relief.
You should also abstain if you have other health conditions that are exacerbated by sex or your doctor has advised you to avoid or limit sexual activity.
If conditions prevent you from participating or sexual activity does trigger or worsen your headaches, there are other natural ways to increase endorphins. These include:
- Time with loved ones, friends, and pets
- Essential oils or aromatherapy; try vanilla or lavender
- Laugh (watch 15min of stand-up comedy online)
- Listen to music
Try some of these activities and see if they help improve your symptoms.
As these studies show, it may be time to reevaluate the old cliché “Not tonight – I have a headache.” While sexual activity can trigger or worsen a migraine for some people, for a shockingly high percentage of people it can improve or completely relieve symptoms. It may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s worth a try! It’s natural, has a myriad of other benefits, and may just become your go-to pain relief technique!