Q: Help! Sex gives me a headache. What can I do?
Sex headaches are real: They can feel like an achiness in the head and neck during sexual activity, or they may come on suddenly and severely right before or during orgasm. It’s not totally clear why sex can cause head pain, but in some cases it may have to do with your blood vessels dilating and your blood pressure increasing during intercourse. Or the headache may be connected to the muscle contractions in the head and neck that can happen before an orgasm. Are you prone to migraines? If so, you may be at a higher risk of sex headaches.
While most sex headaches last only a few minutes, some people might experience them for hours or a couple of days. Some people get only one in their life, but others have them sporadically over the course of about six months.
Sex headaches are typically nothing to worry about. But if you get them often, your doctor can prescribe a beta-blocker or other migraine medication, which you can take regularly or before sex to prevent head pain. Or you can take an over-the-counter painkiller. Important: If you get a sex headache that comes on suddenly, particularly if it’s the first you’ve ever had, bring it up with your doctor, who can make sure there isn’t an underlying condition causing your headache, such as an aneurysm.
Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.