“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 and migraines are not sworn enemies, at least not for most people. Agreed, migraine brings an intense, throbbing pain with sensitivity to light and sound, often followed by nausea or vomiting, and this can make the idea of sex revolting. But once you cross that hurdle, sex might bring you quick relief. Doubtful? Here’s proof.
Does Sex Improve Migraine Pain?
Sex can give you moderate to complete relief from migraine headaches.
A 2013 study asked 800 migraine patients if sex helped them during their migraine attacks. It seemed that not many have explored the option, with only 103 migraine patients saying that they had had sex during a migraine attack. But what’s encouraging is that of them, 60% said there was an improvement in their condition after sex. A majority of them also reported moderate to complete relief.1
Thanks To The Endorphins Sex Releases
There’s no clear understanding yet as to why this happens, also because the science behind migraine is still fuzzy, but the scientists’ educated assumption is that it is because of the rush of endorphins released during orgasm. Endorphins are the body’s natural pain-killers and may be numbing the migraine during and immediately after sexual activity.
Orgasm releases endorphins, low levels of which are related with migraine.
To begin with, low levels of beta endorphins in the blood and in brain and spine fluid 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
Endorphins Lower Pain Sensation
Endorphins have a morphine-like function – that is, a numbing effect – on the nervous system and can decrease the patient’s sensation of pain in two ways. They either inhibit substance P, the protein required for pain transmission, or they help release more dopamine, a chemical that heightens the sensation of pleasure.3 The pleasure and happiness you feel during an orgasm is the doing of dopamine.
Serotonin Increase Relieves Migraine Pain
When serotonin levels increase after an orgasm, migraine pain subsides.
Not just low levels of endorphins, a low release of the neurotransmitter serotonin also leads to migraine pain and associated symptoms.4 After orgasm, the levels of serotonin increase, inducing a relaxing effect. Thus even this could be the contributing factor.
Bottom line: In some people, sexual activity helps release endorphins and serotonin that numb the sensation of pain, providing relief from migraine, and increase the feeling of relaxation and happiness.
Masturbating Might Relieve Migraines 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, 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.5
Does Sex Always Relieve Migraines?
Not always and not for everyone. In some cases, sex may instead trigger a migraine attack or worsen an existing one. About 33% of the patients questioned in the 2013 study said their pain worsened after sex.6 This is because sex is an activity that requires some exertion and may put pressure on the back and the neck. Sex might not work especially if you have a history of explosive headaches before or at the point of orgasm. So know your body and treat it right.
|↑1, ↑6||Hambach, Anke, Stefan Evers, Oliver Summ, Ingo W. Husstedt, and Achim Frese. “The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: An observational study.” Cephalalgia 33, no. 6 (2013): 384-389.|
|↑2||Misra, Usha K., Jayantee Kalita, Gyanesh M. Tripathi, and Sanjeev K. Bhoi. “Is β endorphin related to migraine headache and its relief?” Cephalalgia 33, no. 5 (2013): 316-322.|
|↑3||Sprouse-Blum, Adam S., Greg Smith, Daniel Sugai, and F. Don Parsa. “Understanding endorphins and their importance in pain management.” Hawaii Med J 69, no. 3 (2010): 70-1|
|↑4||Hamel, E. “Serotonin and migraine: biology and clinical implications.” Cephalalgia 27, no. 11 (2007): 1293-1300.|
|↑5||Uca, Ali Ulvi, and Hasan Hüseyin Kozak. “Masturbation and orgasm as migraine headache treatment: Report of a case.” Neurology Asia 20, no. 2 (2015): 185-186.|