Migraines and Sex, What’s the Link?

By: Bel Marra Health | Pain Management | Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 01:11 AM

Migraines and SexStudies are showing women should be saying “yes” a lot more often than they are! A new study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine shows that a whopping 90 percent of women with migraines and tension headaches also have sexual problems, and 29 percent of these women are stressed about their sex lives.

So the answer becomes abundantly clear. But it’s not so easy. The tie between migraines (or headaches in general) and sex is one that is relatively complex. Part of the reason why there is a disconnect with this issue is because it appears to be a double edged sword. Sex has been known to ease the debilitating pain of a migraine, but on the other hand, it can also trigger a headache. So the issue then becomes tricky, is sex a remedy, or a cause.

Sexual intercourse is considered a physical activity, but in some cases, the stress that goes into sex can put pressure on your back (or the back of your neck) which can provoke a migraine in people already prone to headaches.

So let’s break down the opposing opinions. There are two schools of thought on this topic: One holds that sex releases endorphins which can help to prevent or diminish migraine pain. However, the other side of the coin is that sex can make an existing headache worse increasing blood pressure.

The History

Migraines are typically genetic and sufferers are considerably more likely than the average person to develop one of the many other types of headaches, too.

Studies published in the journal Headache reports that the neurotransmitter serotonin is released during sex, and this, alongside the endorphins that are released, help to relieve pain.

What are Endorphins?

Endorphins are chemicals similar to opiates. Endorphins are associated with good feelings, and they intercept pain messages from reaching the brain. Unlike common over the counter pain medications, these naturally produced chemicals work instantly, shutting down a migraine before it has a chance to take hold.

Doctors at Columbia explain that sex can cause three different types of headaches, and all three can lead to migraines: an explosive headache, a tension headache, and a positional headache.

Explosive Headache

The most common type of sex-related (or triggered) headache is the explosive headache, which occurs at the point of orgasm. This serious type of headache can actually have similar symptoms to those of a brain hemorrhage. It is highly suggested that anyone who experiences this type of headache seek medical help right away so a brain hemorrhage can be ruled out.

Tension Headache

These types of headaches are oftentimes caused by stress. Since sexual intercourse puts a certain amount of stress on your body, this type of headache feels very constrictive and usually goes away within 20 minutes.

Positional Headache

Since this type of headache is quite rare, it can be harder to diagnose. Usually these headaches are experienced by people who have had stress placed on their spine (such as an acute injury or an epidural). Positional headaches tend to be quite mild in terms of symptoms, and usually go away within about 24 hours.

While research has been done to support the cause stance, and the cure stance of migraines and their link to sex, it should definitely be noted that migraines do have an impact in relation to sex, and is certainly something worth considering.

Related Reading: Tyramine rich foods can trigger migraines


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