What are sex headaches?

Sex headaches (also called orgasmic headaches, benign coital headache, or orgasmic cephalgia) are headaches associated with sexual activity. They can occur with intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, and anal sex.
They may build gradually as a person reaches orgasm. More commonly, they are sudden and intense at the point of orgasm, resulting in a stabbing pain.
Usually, they last for a few minutes, but in some cases they may last a few hours or even a couple of days. They may happen every once in a while or every time a person has an orgasm.
Men tend to get sex headaches more than women. People who have migraines may also be at greater risk for sex headaches.
It’s not clear why people get sex headaches, but the headaches may be linked to blood vessel spasms in the head.
While bothersome, sex headaches usually aren’t serious. But it’s best for anyone with sex-related headaches to see a doctor to rule out another medical condition, like bleeding in the head. The doctor may order tests, such as an MRI, CT scan, angiogram, or spinal tap.
Sometimes, sex headaches go away quickly on their own. But if there is a pattern of sex headaches and no underlying cause, doctors may prescribe medication to prevent them.

How can sex headaches be prevented?

Some doctors prescribe medications to prevent sex headaches.
Patients who have frequent, lengthy sex headaches might take a beta blocker like propranolol every day. Beta blockers are sometimes used to treat high blood pressure, glaucoma, and migraines as well.
Alternatively, patients might take a medication an hour before sex. The anti-inflammatory drug indomethacin is sometimes prescribed for this purpose. Some people take a triptan, a type of anti-migraine drug, instead of indomethacin.
Some other strategies for handling sex headaches include:
  • Stopping sexual activity when the headache begins.
  • Taking a more passive role in sexual activity.
  • Massaging head and neck muscles to relieve tension before sex.

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