Sex headaches are brought on by sexual activity — especially an orgasm. You may notice a dull ache in your head and neck that builds up as sexual excitement increases. Or, more commonly, you may experience a sudden, severe headache just before or during orgasm.
Most sex headaches are nothing to worry about. But some can be a sign of something serious, such as problems with the blood vessels that feed your brain.
There are two types of sex headaches. The most common variety:
The other variety of sex headache:
Most sex headaches last at least several minutes. Others may linger for a few hours. Many people who have sex headaches will experience them in clusters over a few months and then go for a year or more without having any sex headaches.
When to see a doctor
Any type of sexual activity that leads to orgasm — including masturbation, anal sex, oral sex and intercourse — can trigger sex headaches.
Abrupt-onset and slow-to-build sex headaches can be primary headache disorders not associated with any underlying condition. Sex headaches that come on suddenly are more likely to be associated with:
Sex headaches associated with loss of consciousness, vomiting, stiff neck, other neurologic symptoms and severe pain lasting more than 24 hours are more likely to be due to an underlying cause.
Sex headaches can affect anyone. But risk factors for these headaches include:
Preparing for your appointment
You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, you may be referred to a neurologist. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For headaches associated with sexual activity, some questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions, as well.
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
A less invasive version of this test uses MRI or CT instead of threading a catheter through your blood vessels.
Treatments and drugs
In some cases, your first sex headache may also be your only one. Some sex headaches improve rapidly, so the pain is gone before any pain reliever can work. Because of reports that engaging in sex soon after experiencing a sex headache can cause even worse pain, you may be advised to refrain from sexual activity until your last headache has completely resolved.
Sometimes sex headaches can be prevented by stopping sexual activity before orgasm. Taking a more passive role during sex also may help.
Last Updated: 2012-04-24
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