Why Does My Head Hurt After Sex?

You’re in the zone, preparing for orgasm, and then all of a sudden you feel a severe throbbing in your head. This is known as a “sex headache” or HSA (headache associated with sexual activity).

While most of these are benign, it’s important to talk to your doctor if you get one frequently. Your GP can prescribe drugs like triptans (typically used for migraines) or beta blockers to prevent or treat the pain.

Causes

Researchers haven’t come up with a definitive answer to this question, but it’s thought that sexual headaches might occur because the increase in your levels of testosterone triggers muscles to contract, and this can cause pain. Orgasm-related headaches may also be caused by a spike in blood pressure that causes your blood vessels to dilate. These headaches can be mild or severe, and they often get worse as your body moves during sex.

In some cases, your doctor will ask you questions to learn more about the frequency and severity of your headaches. They’ll ask about the duration of your symptoms, what type of headache you experience and when it happens, and whether there are any other health problems that affect your symptoms. They may also recommend tests such as blood and MRI to rule out any serious reasons for your pain.

While primary sex headaches are usually harmless, you should seek emergency medical attention if it’s the first time you’ve experienced this type of headache, or if the pain is severe. This is because sex headaches can sometimes be a sign of a life-threatening condition such as an aneurysm or a dissection of a blood vessel in the brain (Utku, 2013; Redelman, 2010). These conditions are rare and can be fatal. They’re also more likely to develop in people who already have migraines.

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Symptoms

Medical researchers don’t know what causes sex headaches, which have also been called pre-orgasmic head pain, benign coital head pain or sex-related headaches (Utku, 2013). They are more common in men and may be more severe in those with a history of migraines. They start as a dull ache in the back of the head and neck on both sides that increases in severity as sexual excitement rises. Usually, they don’t last more than a few hours.

Your healthcare provider will examine your symptoms and health history to determine the cause of your sex headaches. They might ask about your family history of migraines or other types of headaches, and they may want you to keep a journal so they can get an idea of how often you experience sex headaches. They may prescribe medications such as indomethacin or a triptan medication (typically used to treat migraines) to prevent the headaches from occurring during sex.

These medications work by narrowing blood vessels to reduce the release of inflammatory substances that can trigger a headache. Your healthcare provider may also advise you to avoid certain triggers such as caffeine or foods that may aggravate your sex headaches. While sex headaches are harmless, they can mimic other more serious conditions, so it’s important to see your healthcare provider after you experience your first episode.

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Treatment

Once a healthcare provider has ruled out more serious conditions, headaches associated with sex may be managed with preventative medications such as triptan drugs. Headaches that occur during sexual intercourse or just prior to orgasm can be a result of muscle contractions that lead to a throbbing noggin or changes in blood flow to the brain, depending on the type of headache.

These types of sex-related headaches are often called “preorgasmic” or “orgasm headaches.” In these cases, the pain tends to be felt at the neck and head, and it intensifies as sexual excitement increases. It is believed that these types of headaches are caused by a rise in blood pressure and the dilation of blood vessels.

Medications like aspirin and ibuprofen may help with these symptoms, but over-the-counter headache medicines tend to have no effect for most people who experience this type of sex headache (Redelman, 2010). In some instances, it has been found that taking a more passive role in the bedroom is enough to reduce the occurrence of sex-related headaches, but this can take up to 3 months to have a significant impact on the problem.

Doctors will ask about other symptoms that come along with the headache as well as how frequently they occur and when they happen. They will also want to know whether any family members have a history of migraines or similar headaches.

Prevention

If you’re experiencing a severe, throbbing headache during or after sexual release or orgasm, see your doctor right away. It may be a sign of a brain aneurysm, which is dangerous and requires immediate medical attention.

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Headache pain after sex is also called benign sex headache, orgasmic cephalgia, or primary sexual headache (PSH). It’s an uncommon condition that affects about one to 1.6% of the population, according to the International Headache Society. These types of headaches are typically triggered by sexual activity and start as a dull, bilateral ache that gets worse with excitement or as you approach orgasm. They can last from one minute to up to 24 hours.

You can prevent these types of headaches by avoiding any foods, beverages or supplements that might trigger them. You can also use lubricants to reduce friction and discomfort. You can also try sex positions that are less physically exerting, such as the missionary position or other imaginative positions, Lovehoney sex and relationship expert Annabelle Knight says.

There are also medications that can help, including beta-blockers like propranolol or metoprolol, anti-inflammatory medication such as indomethacin or ibuprofen, and triptan drugs used to treat migraines, which narrow blood vessels and decrease the release of inflammatory chemicals in the brain that cause pain. Talk to your doctor about these options for prevention.

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