Sex Headaches: Symptoms, Causes And Treatment

When we think about sex, most often, we think only of the pleasure that comes with it. You exercise while you have fun, which makes sex an activity that most people look forward to. However, sex isn’t always the great experience it is made out to be for some people. There can be many side effects to having sex, one of them being headaches that arise due to sexual activity. This phenomenon is known as coital cephalalgia, and affects approximately one percent of the adult population. Unfortunately, for many, it acts as a buzzkill and can affect their ability to enjoy sex, and can even contribute to lowering sex drive or bringing anxiety about sex. In most cases, it isn’t dangerous at all though, and is only an annoying side effect.


According to Mayo Clinic, sex headaches can be grouped into 2 types: one that is a dull ache in the head and the neck that tends to intensify as the sexual

excitement increases, and one that a sudden and severe headache that occurs just before or at the moment of the orgasm. For some people, both of these headaches can combine to become a painful overall experience. Loyola Medicine has added a third type of sex headache, which is where a headache occurs after sex, and can range from mild to extremely painful. The headache gets worse when a patient stands, and lessens when he/she lies down. The duration of these headaches usually lasts for a few minutes, but also depends on the individual. Some people have headaches that linger for hours, and sometimes even days. For a lot of people, the headaches come in clusters over the course of a few months, and then disappear for a year or so. Up to half of the people suffering from sex headaches will have them over a period of 6 months, and some people might only have one attack in their entire lives.


The cause for a

sex headache is, as the name states, sexual activity. Headaches that come up abruptly, or are built over slowly, are associated with headache disorders and don’t have an underlying condition that may be a cause for concern. However, if the headache comes on suddenly, and is associated with loss of consciousness, stiff neck, vomiting, other neurological symptoms, or has severe pain lasting over 24 hours, it could be due to an underlying condition. Some of the underlying causes are:

  • Intracranial aneurysm (a bubble in the wall of an artery inside the head)
  • Dissection (bleeding of an artery leading to the brain)
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Inflammation caused by certain infections
  • Use of some medications, like birth control pills

However, these underlying causes are usually rare as most sex headaches are benign and pose no danger to the person.

Risk Factors And Treatment

Men are three to four times more likely than women to suffer from sex headaches. This could be because men exert themselves more than women during the act, but the actual

reason for this is not fully understood. Another risk factor is low blood sugar, as it has seen to help lay the foundation for the onset of sex headaches. For a lot of people, their first sex headache is also their last, so there is no need for medication. For others, if the headaches are intermittent, a doctor evaluation is recommended to take the next step.

If there is no underlying cause found for the headaches and they occur frequently enough to disrupt any kind of sexual activity, a doctor might recommend that you take preventive medications regularly. Some of the daily medications include beta blockers that are usually used to treat high blood pressure, coronary disease and migraines. Other types of medication include indomethacin, an anti-inflammatory medication, or one of the triptans, which work as anti-migraine medication. These are taken an hour before having sex and work as a preventative measure. Some lifestyle changes, like lowering blood pressure through relaxing activities like meditation and lowering alcohol intake have also shown to help. Moreover, eating magnesium rich foods like almonds, cashews,

dark leafy green vegetables, avocados and whole grains can also help to avoid these headaches.

If you are suffering from sex headaches often, it is recommended that you visit the doctor to rule out any underlying causes and get an expert opinion about what treatment works best based on individual differences.