Can Sex Relieve Migraine Headaches? The Scientific View

“Not tonight, honey, I have a headache!” – this oft-heard line of sitcom humor or genuine roadblock to intimacy might just have to retire now. Research has found that sex can relieve migraine headaches completely in some patients. Doubtful? Here’s proof.

Sex For Migraine: Sex Cures Headaches In Many

Sex can give you moderate to complete relief from migraine headaches.

A 2013 study published in Cephalalgia asked 800 migraine patients if sex helped them during their migraine attacks. Not many had explored the option; only 103 migraine patients replied in the affirmative. But what’s encouraging is that 60% of them said there was an improvement in their condition after sex. And a majority among this 60% reported moderate to complete relief.1 Some of them, male migraineiurs in particular, even admitted to using sex as therapy.

There’s no clear understanding yet as to how exactly sex relieves migraine headaches, mostly because the science behind migraine is still fuzzy,

but it seems to be all about hormones. Hormones work faster than painkillers; so the relief you get is immediate. Some feel better right at the moment of orgasm, while others start feeling better soon after.

Sex Releases Endorphins That Act As Painkillers

The most plausible reason for pain relief is the rush of endorphins during orgasm. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers as they reduce the perception of pain.

Orgasm releases endorphins, low levels of which are related with migraine.

To begin with, low levels of beta-endorphins in the blood and in the cerebrospinal fluid (that surrounds the brain and the spine) are related with migraine. People have low beta-endorphin levels during an attack, and those who have chronic migraine have lower endorphin levels than those who have an attack once in a while.2 So the easiest fix to this would be an increase in endorphin levels. But how do the endorphins help?

Endorphins have

a morphine-like function – that is, a numbing effect – on the nervous system. They can decrease your sensation of pain either by inhibiting substance P, the protein required for pain transmission, or by releasing more dopamine, a chemical that heightens the sensation of pleasure.3

Sex Boosts Dopamine, Serotonin, And Oxytocin

Recent research has found that dopamine levels in the brain fall and fluctuate at different times during a migraine attack. Dopamine controls your sensory perception, like touch, light, or sound, and your mood. So a drop in dopamine levels makes you painfully perceptive – even a light touch can make you wince – and also makes you shun any physical or verbal contact with others.4

Dopamine levels fall during

a migraine attack. Sex boosts dopamine levels.

Of course, these make intercourse unwelcome. But remember the typical sense of pleasure during an orgasm? That’s dopamine for you. So sex might be the answer to naturally boost your dopamine levels during a migraine attack and get instant relief.

Not just low levels of endorphins and dopamine, a low release of the neurotransmitter serotonin also leads to migraine pain and associated symptoms.5 After orgasm, the levels of serotonin increase, inducing a relaxing and pain-relieving effect. In fact, many migraine medicines focus on making serotonin more available to the neurons.

When serotonin levels increase after an orgasm, migraine pain subsides.

The third player in reducing your pain after sex is oxytocin, the love hormone or the cuddle hormone. The calming effect it has can also lull you to a restful sleep, which is often the best remedy for a raging headache.

Masturbating Might Cure Migraine Pain Too

It’s the orgasm that matters; so, even masturbating can bring the migraine pain down.

Because orgasm is what

causes the rush of endorphins and other hormones, masturbation might be just as helpful, if not a more convenient option. A case study reports that a female patient who resorted to clitoral and/or vaginal masturbation at the onset of a migraine headache found relief in cases of mild to moderately severe migraine attacks. As the period of relaxation following this sexual activity helped her sleep better, her pain situation improved significantly.6

Sex Can Also Relieve Cluster Headaches

The 2013 study also asked 200 patients with cluster headaches (a severe, one-sided headache) if sex improved their headaches. Of them, 62 said they had engaged in intercourse during an attack, and 23 of them said it improved their symptoms, even offering complete relief in some cases.

But Sex Can Sometimes Also Worsen Headaches

Sex is not a universal remedy though. It does not work for everyone. In some cases, sex may instead trigger a migraine attack or worsen an existing one. In the 2013

study, about 33% of the migraine patients and 50% of those with cluster headaches said their pain worsened after sex.7

This can probably be explained by the fact that sex is after all an activity that requires some exertion and may put pressure on the back and the neck. Sex will certainly not work if you have a history of explosive headaches before or at the point of orgasm or tension type headaches after sex.

To Do Or Not To Do

In some people, sexual activity helps release endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, all of which reduce the perception of pain and increase the feeling of relaxation and happiness. If exercising or running gives you a happy high quickly, you may well expect sex to help. Because hormones work faster than painkillers, the relief will be instant.

Sex can relieve migraine headaches but cannot root out migraines. So it’s best to

target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">prevent migraine attacks with lifestyle changes.

Do note that sex can relieve your migraine headaches but cannot cure migraines. It cannot make your migraine triggers vanish nor alter the way your body responds to the triggers.

Also, if you have frequent attacks, rather than falling back on sex every time you get an attack, try other home remedies for migraine or visit the doctor to know how to prevent them. This holds true for even those of you who get explosive headaches during orgasm, which, sadly, rules out the option of sex as a remedy.