Can Sex Prevent or Relieve Headaches?

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Man looking at his girlfriend having a headache sitting at a tab
Man looking at his girlfriend having a headache sitting at a table in the living room

“Not tonight, I have a headache…” It is the classic sitcom line, however, new research seems to suggest that for people who suffer from migraine or other headache syndromes, a little love-making, may be just what the doctor ordered.

In a study published in the neurological Journal, Cephalalgia conducted by researchers with the University of Munster in Germany, 60% percent of migraine patients reported that sexual activity leading to orgasm reduced their migraine pain. Nearly 40% of respondents in the study suffering form cluster headaches, reported the same thing. This is particularly good news for women, who make up 70% of those who suffer from migraine headaches.

According to the study, headache pain relief was achieved regardless of the position, the partner, or the type of sexual activity – as long as orgasm was reached, there was a reduction of symptoms. 43% said they experienced the pain relief soon after climax, while 18% said it occurred exactly at the moment of orgasm.

Doctors are still not sure exactly why sex can reduce migraine and other headache pain, as well as if not more effectively, than pain-killers, but they suspect it has to do with the release of endorphins. Endorphins, and other neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, are the brain’s “feel good” chemicals that are released in large amounts during sex, and particularly after an orgasm. In addition to providing that well-known “after-glow,” these chemicals can also have a natural pain suppressing effect.

In response to the study, Donald Penzien, PhD, director of the Head and Pain Clinic at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said “The benefits you’re talking about are on par with the more potent medications we have [to treat headache]. “It’s not a trivial thing, and the encouraging thing is that a substantial number of people get a lot of relief.”

So, the next time you feel that headache coming on, reach for your partner, instead of the medicine cabinet!

By Richard Gaines, M.D., FAARM, ABAARM

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