What to do if you experience a severe headache when you reach climax.
Sex is normally associated with pleasure, but what happens if you reach climaxand you’re suddenly struck down with a crippling headache?
For some unlucky people, experiencing a severe headache at the exact moment they reach orgasm can occur. But why does this happen, does it signify something more serious and how can you prevent it from ruining your bedroom fun?
GP Dr Roger Henderson unravels the pain/pleasure mystery behind sex headaches:
What is a sex headache?
A sex headache is the same as a traditional headache, but occurs during sex or at the point of orgasm. If you experience a severe headache at the time you climax, this can be worrying for you and your partner. Fortunately they are usually not serious. These headaches are known medically by various names, such as:
- Post-coital headache
- Sexual headache
- Orgasmic headache
- Coital cephalgia
- Coital cephalalgia
The words cephalgia and cephalalgia are alternative spellings of a medical word meaning headache.
How common are sex headaches?
Orgasmic headaches are more common in men than in women and can occur just once or on several occasions, even over a number of years.
There is usually no obvious cause and they seem to occur more frequently in people who have migraine or tension headaches although the headache is not typically ‘migrainous’ in nature. For instance, they don’t usually just affect one side of the head, and they’re not usually accompanied by visual disturbances or by nausea – as is often the case with migraine.
What causes sex headaches?
Sometimes, orgasm headaches can occur when a person is under intense emotional stress. Very little is known about the causes of this type of pain but one widespread view among doctors is that it’s due to the swift rise in blood pressure (BP) that occurs during sex and, more particularly, during orgasm.
However, there’s no evidence at all that coital headaches are more likely to occur among people who have a high BP (hypertension). Also, they are more common in younger males than older ones, and high blood pressure occurs less frequently in young men.
What are the symptoms of a sex headache?
A typical story is this: a man or woman is enjoying sex with their partner and is just reaching climax, or has just passed it, when suddenly they experience a severe pain (sometimes described as an ‘explosion’) usually located at the back of the skull, just above the neck. The pain may last for only a few minutes. But sometimes it goes on for several hours, before gradually fading away.
The headaches may never occur again but a more frequent scenario is that they are repeated for a few weeks or months, striking every time the person has sex. Then they gradually fade away.
How should you treat a sex headache?
While sex headaches are a fairly misunderstood phenomenon, there are a few things you can do to ease the pain and (hopefully) prevent recurrence:
✔️ Firstly, tell your partner what’s happening otherwise misunderstandings are almost bound to occur. Your partner may be confused by the fact that you suddenly ‘break off’ during sex for no apparent reason and later are reluctant to have any subsequent sexual encounters.
✔️ The best immediate treatment is to take ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol – provided that these drugs don’t give you any problems – then just try to relax, lying flat for an hour or two.
✔️ If you get a severe coital headache, let your GP know as if it’s really bad, or if it occurs more than once, your GP should refer you to a neurologist. This specialist will examine your central nervous system, and probably arrange a CT scan of your brain and maybe an angiography.
✔️ In the UK, it is widespread practice for doctors to advise patients to ‘take life easy’ for a while, which usually means not having sex for a week or two. Very frequently, GPs may suggest that the patient uses a painkiller of the type mentioned above, taking it a couple of hours before having sex.
✔️ A few doctors prescribe propranolol, which is a beta-blocker drug that has the effect of lowering blood pressure and slowing the pulse, as well as reducing anxiety.
✔️ Fortunately, very often these coital headaches just ‘fade out’ over a period of weeks or months, and never recur but it is always worth seeking medical advice, just in case there’s any serious underlying physical condition.
⚠️ According to an article published in the British Journal of Medical Practitioners, sex headaches are benign, but because they can mimic serious conditions it is important that you seek medical assistance, so if symptoms persist ask your GP for advice.