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does sex relieve headaches

Does Sex Help With Headaches?

We’re debunking this cliché – with research.

“Not tonight, honey — I have a headache.” Has this cliché been used in your household recently (and don’t think it’s just the ladies — we know there are plenty of gents using this excuse, too!) Well, we’ve got news for you: There are plenty of reasons to never use this excuse again, especially on such a romantic holiday as Valentine’s Day. And they’re all grounded in science.

Reason 1: Working up a sweat may help reduce migraine intensity and frequency.

…and cardio between the sheets can count, too. Exercise has many benefits, and there’s a chance it can also help bring migraine relief. 1 A very small pilot study on eight migraine patients found that those who completed a 10-week aerobic running program showed a reduction in the number and intensity of migraine attacks. Although more research is needed, it’s not a bad idea to talk about an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle and fitness level with your doctor. 2

Reason 2: Some report that sexual activity can help lessen the pain.

If sex isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you get a migraine, that’s completely understandable. But a patient-reported study about sexual activity and migraines offers some intriguing results. 3 While only 34% of the 800 sufferers surveyed reported having experienced sexual activity during an attack, more than half of them (60% to be exact) reported an improvement. The results are self-reported, but if you’re a migraine sufferer who has said you’ll try anything to get relief, well … here’s an idea.

Bonus Fact!: Could migraineurs actually have a higher sex drive?

Another small study on the topic of sexual activity and migraines offers more fascinating results. Sixty-eight participants were asked in a questionnaire about their headaches and sexual desires. 4 Most of the participants broke down into two sufferer groups: migraineurs and tension-type headaches. When asked, the migraineurs reported higher levels of sexual desire than the tension group. And when asked about rating their own sexual desire compared to people of their same age and sex, migraineurs stuck to the same theme, rating themselves as having more desire than their peers. Interesting!  (Science alert: The study authors hypothesize that the connection could have something to do with serotonin levels. Drop that into conversation at your next dinner party.)

So the age-old excuse of “not tonight, honey – I have a headache” might continue on in the bedroom — it just might not be headache and migraine sufferers saying it.

It’s important to visit your doctor to get a migraine diagnosis and discuss the right method of treatment for your pain.


  1. Koseoglu E, Yetkin MF, Ugur F, Bilgen M. The role of exercise in migraine treatment short title: exercise in migraine. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2014 Jun. PubMed PMID: 24921618.
  2. Darabaneanu S, Overath CH, Rubin D, Lüthje S, Sye W, Niederberger U, Gerber WD, Weisser B. Aerobic exercise as a therapy option for migraine: a pilot study. Int J Sports Med. 2011 Jun;32(6):455-60. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1269928. Epub 2011 Apr 6. PubMed PMID: 21472632.
  3. Hambach A, Evers S, Summ O, Husstedt I, Frese A. The impact of sexual activity on idiopathic headaches: An observational study. Cephalagia. 2013 Apr;33(6):384-389.
  4. Houle T, Dhingra L, Remble T, Rokicki L, Penzien D. Not tonight, I have a headache? Headache. 2006;46(6):983-990.


Tags: headache tips, headache preventionrelationships

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