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Does sex relieve or trigger migraines?

Migraine is a medical condition that can involve severe, recurring headaches. Medications can help manage symptoms, and some evidence suggests sexual activity may be beneficial too. However, more research is needed, as sex may trigger migraine headaches in some people.

Migraine is a neurological condition that can encompass a variety of symptoms, which can include headaches.

However, migraine usually produces symptoms that are more intense and debilitating than headaches, and some types of migraine may not cause head pain.

Migraine episodes may occur occasionally or frequently and can cause a person to experience:

  • sensitivity to light or sound
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Many factors can cause or trigger migraine episodes, including:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • hormonal changes
  • certain foods
  • loud noises

While different methodsto relieve migraine exist, some research indicates that the pain relief that may accompany sexual intercourse could help relieve some symptoms.

In this article, we will discuss the relationship between sex and migraine.

Some research has shown the possible benefits of sexual intercourse on the symptoms of migraine.

According to the Association of Migraine Disorders, people may experience pain relief as a result of sexual intercourse due to the production of endorphins. Endorphins are a type of hormone that the body typically produces in response to pleasure, such as during an orgasm from sex. They can help block pain perception in the body, and the pain relief these hormones provide may be even greater than that of morphine.

An older 2013 study exploring the effects of sexual activity on migraine found positive results. Of the individuals who participated in sexual activity while experiencing a migraine, 60% reported an improvement in their migraine symptoms.

However, there is still a lack of research into the positive effects of sex on migraine symptoms. Therefore, more research into this area is still necessary.

While sex may relieve migraine symptoms in some people, it can also trigger migraine episodes in others.

According to the American Migraine Foundation, primary headache associated with sexual activity is a rare type of headache that a person may experience either during or after sexual activity. Some people may refer to these types of headaches as orgasmic or pre-orgasmic headaches.

Physical activitymay aggravate symptoms in people with migraine. Therefore, strenuous sexual activity may also trigger a migraine episode.

Primary headaches associated with sexual activity normally occur on both sides and the back of the head. They normally last between 1 minute to 24 hours when the pain is severe, and up to 72 hours when the pain is mild.

A person may experience a dull pain in the back of their head during sexual activity and before orgasm, which is known as a pre-orgasmic headache. Alternatively, a person may experience a sudden, explosive headache that results in severe throbbing pain prior to or during an orgasm, which is known as an orgasmic headache.

Pre-orgasmic headaches may occur due to excessive neck and jaw muscular contraction, while orgasmic headaches may result from:

  • an increase in blood pressure
  • an increase in heart rate
  • activation of the trigeminal neurovascular system

A 2021 literature review notes that people who experience headaches during sexual activity rarely experience nausea or sensitivity to light or sounds.

Learn more about orgasm headaches.

At present, no research indicates if there is a particular association between certain types of migraine or sexual acts.

As the beneficial effects may relate to the release of endorphins from orgasm, the type of sex is not critical. This means thatmasturbation or other forms of sexual activity may also help block the perception of pain from a migraine episode.

As strenuous activities can lead to migraine symptoms, it may be advisable for people to take a less active role during sexual activity if it is a potential migraine trigger.

There is currently no absolute cure for migraine, as researchers do not yet fully understand the mechanism of migraine and its underlying causes. However, a person can try different approaches to improve their symptoms.

A person may be able to prevent migraine episodes using medication. The drug erenumab (Aimovig) is a monoclonal antibody. These types of drugs block the activity of certain proteins in the body. In this case, they block a protein known as calcitonin gene-related peptide, which plays a role in migraine.

Other medications,including ubrogepant (Ubrelvy) tablets and lasmiditan (Reyvow), are also available and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help prevent migraine episodes.

However, while people can use these drugs for migraine prevention, there is not much evidence to suggest they are effective for migraine associated with sexual activity. Instead, a doctor may prescribe other medications, such as:

A person may also benefit from non-pharmacological strategies, such as:

A person may also benefit from making lifestyle changes. For example, a person may find it useful to change their diet if certain foods trigger a migraine episode. Similarly, quitting smoking may also reduce the likelihood of migraine episodes in the future if smoking is a trigger.

A person may benefit from keeping a journal or log of their potential personal triggers. This can help them avoid such triggers in the future and also identify a migraine episode more quickly.

During an acute migraine episode, medications that a person may find useful to deal with pain include:

  • aspirin
  • ibuprofen
  • sumatriptan
  • ergotamine drugs

A person’s doctor may also prescribe them drugs known as antiemetics, such as metoclopramide (Reglan), which may help decrease nausea and vomiting.

Click here for more tips on migraine relief.

A person should contact a doctor if they experience reoccurring symptoms and have not had an official diagnosis from a doctor. Symptoms that a person should be aware of include:

  • a one-sided headache that can occur for a period of 4–72 hours
  • nausea or vomiting
  • moderate to severe pain
  • sensitivity to light and sound

Some people with migraine may also experience visual and sensory disturbances known as aura. These can appear as:

  • flashes of light
  • blind spots
  • tingling in the face or hands

According to the American Migraine Foundation, a person should also contact a doctor if:

  • migraine is interfering with their life
  • migraine episodes are occurring once a week or more
  • migraine episodes occur more often than not
  • a person is taking over-the-counter medication more than twice a week to treat their migraine symptoms

A person should consult a doctor to exclude other potentially life threatening conditions if they have:

  • a sudden onset of migraine symptoms
  • severe migraine symptoms
  • a sudden headache associated with sex for the first time

Migraine is a type of neurological condition that can present with a variety of symptoms, which can include severe headaches.

Some evidence indicates that sexual intercourse may help relieve migraine symptoms in some people. This may be due to the release of feel-good hormones and their potential pain-relieving qualities. Conversely, other evidence suggests that sexual activity could trigger migraine episodes for other individuals.

Tips to relieve migraine symptoms may involve:

  • medications
  • lifestyle changes
  • relaxation techniques

If migraine symptoms are frequent and debilitating, it is advisable for a person to contact their doctor.

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