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Your Guide to Sex and Migraines

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Nov 7, 2014 7:00:00 AM
The old joke about mentioning a headache as an excuse whenever your significant other is in the mood for sex and you're not is at the heart of a 2013 medical research study related to migraines and other types of debilitating cephalalgia conditions such as cluster headaches. The good news is that results from the study indicate that sexual activity can be effectively incorporated as part of a strategy to manage migraines, but not all patients will derive the same benefit. The bad news is that sex can also be a migraine trigger for many people who live with this condition.

Sex as a Therapeutic Aid

Researchers from the University of Munster in Germany reached out to a thousand patients diagnosed with either migraines or cluster headaches. The research subjects were organized into 800 patients who suffer from migraines and 200 who experience cluster headaches. The population sample pretty much mirrored what is known about these two conditions: Whereas most migraine patients are women, the opposite is true of cluster headaches, which are mostly experienced by men. Also, the rate of patients who suffer from chronic migraines with aura was about 25 percent.

The results of the study, which were published in the medical journal Cephalalgia, indicate that 40 percent of the test subjects responded to the survey. From the responses, the researchers gleaned the following:
  • Nearly 33 percent of patients find sex to be a form of relief from their headache
  • Up to 60 percent of migraine patients reported complete or at least significant relief after having sex
  • Similar percentages were reported by patients who suffer from cluster headaches
There are two very interesting aspects of this study. First, although the medical community has known for some time that sex can have a beneficially therapeutic effect for patients who live with different types of cephalalgia, this evidence has been largely anecdotal; this is the first time a research survey has been carried out. Second, almost none of the patients in the study revealed indifference with regard to sex and their headaches.

Sex as Neurochemical Therapy

The medical community is not 100 percent certain as to how sex provides relief for headaches. It is widely believed, however, that the relief is related to the neurochemistry of our bodies. The most accepted hypothesis is that orgasms trigger a rush of endorphins, a primal neurochemical compound of the brain that contains analgesic properties. Endorphins are like opium in our brains, and they provide instant pain relief that is even faster than injectable morphine.
Another neurochemical factor in the hypothesis is serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter that is essential in the treatment of depression, sleep disorders and memory loss. Serotonin is released even before orgasm, which explains the feeling of pleasure and well-being that we experience during our intimacy.

Sex Can Also be a Migraine Trigger

For about 40 percent of the migraine patients who responded to the survey, sex does not provide relief; in fact, it may even trigger an episode. There are two reasons why this happens: One is that most sexual acts involve a certain amount of physical activity that involve muscle tissue in the back and the neck, which in turns affects the corresponding nerves and ends up triggering migraine episodes in many patients. The other reason may be emotional: Just about all migraine patients are prone to suffering headache episodes when they experience stress caused by excitability. Patients with low serotonin counts are not always in the mood for sex, and this may be because they know that getting excited could actually create a chemical imbalance of deep stress.

Since stress and depression have very negative consequences for many migraine patients, physicians often prescribe antidepressants and triptans as part of a preventive regime strategy to control migraines. Exercise can help with migraines since it can also release endorphins and serotonin, but individual activities such as yoga may be better for some people who find team sports stressful. To this effect, masturbation may turn out better for migraine patients for whom intimacy with others evokes feelings of stress.
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Topics: Causes, Treatment

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