A headache brought on by sexual activity, also known as a sex headache, can happen during or just after orgasm. It’s usually harmless but can be uncomfortable.
Sex headaches can occur as a single attack or in clusters over a few months. A health care provider can help identify the cause of your sex headache and prescribe medications to manage it.
Luckily, most headaches that occur during sexual activity are benign. These are called primary sex headaches (also known as sexual cephalgia or benign orgasmic head pain). They happen when there isn’t an underlying health condition causing the pain.
Researchers aren’t sure what causes these headaches, but they may be related to clenching of neck and jaw muscles or changes in blood flow. They’re also similar to exertional headaches, which are headaches that happen after exercise. They can occur as a one-time attack or can come in clusters over a few months.
It’s important to see a doctor for any sudden, severe headache that occurs during or after sexual activity. This could be a sign of a more serious problem, such as a brain hemorrhage.
The International Headache Society defines sex headaches as “headaches precipitated by sexual activity, usually starting as a dull bilateral ache as sexual excitement increases and then becoming intense at orgasm.” They’re more common in men than in women.
If you get sex headaches, try taking an over-the-counter pain reliever before sexual activity. If it doesn’t help, talk to your doctor about taking daily medications that can prevent sex headaches. These include beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL) or metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL). Also, a calcium channel blocker like verapamil hydrochloride (Calan SR) can help some people. These medications are typically used to treat high blood pressure and coronary heart disease, but can be helpful in preventing sex headaches as well.
If a severe headache appears right after orgasm, especially if it comes on suddenly and is intense, you should get checked out at the hospital to make sure that it’s not a brain hemorrhage. These sex headaches, also called thunderclap headaches, may be related to rapid increases in blood pressure and heart rate during sexual activity. They may be triggered by certain activities, such as clenching the jaw or neck muscles or bending forward. The pain from sex headaches can last for minutes or hours, and they are often made worse by bright lights, loud sounds, or movement.
Depending on the severity of your sex headache, your doctor may recommend a painkiller such as acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen (Benadryl). A prescription-strength NSAID called indomethacin can help treat sex headaches, but it has significant gastrointestinal side effects, so you’ll need to weigh those risks with the benefits. You can also take daily medications such as a beta blocker, like propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL), or a calcium channel blocker, such as verapamil hydrochloride (Calan SR). These drugs are used to treat high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, and migraines.
Primary sex headaches don’t have a specific cause, and medical researchers aren’t sure what triggers them. It may be that sex hormones raise your blood pressure and heart rate, which leads to dilation of blood vessels in the brain. They can also be caused by clenching of the neck and jaw muscles or changes in blood flow to the brain.
There are many different treatments available for sex headaches, depending on the cause. Treatment options include medications to alleviate the pain, as well as procedures to address any underlying causes.
If you’re suffering from primary sex headache, which don’t have an obvious cause, it may be due to changes in your blood flow or increased tension in your neck and jaw muscles. In some cases, this can lead to symptoms such as nausea or vomiting, and stiffness in the neck or jaw. In more serious cases, it can be caused by a ruptured brain artery (subarachnoid hemorrhage), arteriovenous malformation or an intracranial aneurysm.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen should be enough to treat a headache that occurs during or immediately after sexual activity. For more severe symptoms, a doctor may prescribe triptan medications. These medications are commonly used to treat migraines and help narrow blood vessels in the brain that can cause pain. Common triptan medications include sumatriptan (Alsuma) and zolmitriptan (Zomig).
You can also try to prevent sex headaches by stopping sexual activity before your partner reaches climax, or taking a more passive role during penetrative activities. But if you’re prone to sex headaches, it’s best to see your doctor for advice. They can recommend daily meds to help prevent sex headaches, as well as advise you on how to avoid triggers.
There are a number of preventive measures you can take to avoid sexual headaches. The most important step is to see a healthcare provider and discuss your symptoms. They can perform a thorough exam and may refer you to a neurologist for further tests. If you have frequent or severe sex headaches, keep track of the dates and times of them so that your healthcare provider can get to the root cause.
Sex-induced headaches are not common, but they can happen to anyone. They can be on one side or across the whole head, and can last minutes to hours. They can feel like a dull ache or throbbing pain and can be located on the top of the head, behind your eyes, or in the neck area. They can also be a thunderclap type of headache that is very sudden and intense.
A sex headache that occurs during or just after orgasm is called an orgasm headache. It isn’t well understood why these occur, but they might be related to the rapid increase in blood pressure and heart rate that happens during sexual arousal and orgasm. They can also be triggered by masturbation or sexual activity that isn’t orgasm-producing.
Pre-orgasmic headaches are more common than orgasm headaches and can be felt as a dull pain that builds up over time while you’re getting aroused. They’re not as strong as a regular headache and they’re less impacted by blood pressure or by sound and light. Medications such as beta-blockers, propranolol (Inderal) or metoprolol (Lopressor or Toprol XL), or the anti-inflammatory Indomethacin can help to treat this type of headache.