It’s hard to stay horny with a sore, throbbing head, but the last few decades have seen neuroscientists delve deep into the burning question: Could sex actually help cure headaches?
But before we dig any deeper, it’s time for some background. In total, there are more than 150 types of headache, which can pretty much be divided into the categories of “primary” and “secondary.” The former can be triggered by anything from too much booze to a shitty, stressful day, and they’re related solely to the “pain-sensitive structures in your head.” Secondary headaches are different in the sense that they’re symptomatic of wider, underlying health issues ranging from meningitis to cerebral blood clots.
Until now, scientists have mainly studied the impact of boning on two specific subsections of primary headaches: cluster headaches, which involve sharp, severe pain in one side of your face or in one eye, and migraines, which are throbbing, long-lasting (usually between four and 72 hours) headaches that escalate in various stages.
The most-cited research is an observational study conducted in Germany way back in 2013. Eight-hundred patients with migraines were given a questionnaire — of these, only 38 percent had any experience with fucking during a migraine attack. Sixty percent of them, however, reported an improvement of symptoms. But before you crack open the lube, it’s worth noting that 33 percent of them said sex actively worsened their migraines. As for the 200 respondents suffering with cluster headaches, 37 percent reported an improvement. By contrast, 50 percent reported their symptoms worsening.
There’s a gendered strain to this, too. In the aforementioned survey, researchers note that some men actively sought out sex as a “therapeutic tool,” determined to literally fuck the pain away. Women, on the other hand, have been subjected to some pretty shitty medical reviews. In fact, a 2001 study opens by arguing women use “headaches as an excuse” to avoid fucking their partners, and then theorizes they “could be missing out on pain relief” by refusing to be railed. In the same abstract, the researchers write: “Occasionally, orgasm can trigger a migraine but in others, it can relieve a migraine.” The paper is summarized in a 2017 report entitled “Oxytocin and Migraine Headache,” and figures show that 47 percent of women “report that sex provides at least some relief from their migraines.”
Eitiher way, it’s hardly conclusive evidence — and nowhere near conclusive enough to insinuate women should open up to being boned when their throbbing headaches are shitting all over their sex drives.
I sent this research over to Una Farrell, a spokesperson for the U.K.’s only migraine-related charity, The Migraine Trust. After a bemused phone call, she provided a pretty conclusive response: “There isn’t enough research to support the claim that sex helps migraines in any way.” In her eyes, a combination of tiny sample sizes and over-reliance on case studies make it pretty hard to claim in any definitive way that fucking can relieve pain.
There is some neurological reasoning to all of this, though. Sex releases a series of neurotransmitters associated with pleasure, including serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine. Studies have shown oxytocin in particular — known colloquially as the “bonding hormone” due to its raised rates in new mothers — floods through the brain during orgasm, in both men and women. Building on the earlier 2001 study, Dr. David C. Yeomans gave a presentation at the 2016 Headache Symposium that indicated oxytocin in particular could work as a sort of migraine pain relief.
There’s good news for kink enthusiasts, too — there is research to suggest that being spanked and flogged releases a rush of endorphins, which bind to opiate receptors and relieve pain. More in-depth studies have yet to be conducted, but it’s possible to argue this could also apply to headaches and migraine pain — although whether or not you feel like being whipped during a migraine attack is a different question entirely.
As it stands, though, evidence is nowhere near conclusive enough to suggest fucking headaches away could work. In fact, a quick scan of Reddit shows countless horror stories of “sex headaches” — either short bursts of post-orgasm pain or dull, throbbing aches during sexual arousal — which feature guys curling up in agony straight after blowing their wad.
So you can try to fuck away the pain of a long-lasting headache if you really want, but it might just be a pain in the ass as well as the head.