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Ouch! Coital Headaches

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Welcome to a rare but not unheard-of sexual phenomenon: coital headaches. These are thought to be caused by the unique form of blood flow involved in orgasm and/or ejaculation, and can be experienced as anything from a dull ache to a full-blown migraine. They are grouped in the same family as effort migraines or exertional headaches, which are often induced due to physical strain.

According to The Women’s Sexual Health Foundation, “the vasodilation associated with sexual arousal that leads to engorgement of the genitals, nipples, and nasal mucosa, as well as the flushing of the chest and face, may become generalized and lead to dilation of the cerebral blood vessels, causing headache.” This issue is more common in men than women with a ratio of 4:1, but the women who do suffer from it have conjured a whole new meaning to the phrase “Not tonight honey, I have a headache.”

The primary characteristic of coital headaches is their sudden onset. Pain comes on very quickly and may take the form of a stabbing or throbbing ache. This begins just before orgasm and intensifies as stimulation is increased. It lasts for a few hours following orgasm, and may be severe enough to cause nausea or vomiting. Approximately 30% of sufferers report that the pain comes from the back of their heads.

Of course, cranial pain of any type should never be ignored. See a doctor to rule out a tumor or other serious problem, which is usually done through use of an MRI, MRA, or CT scan.

Once your case is diagnosed as benign, there are several things you can do to treat the condition. These include drinking caffeinated beverages and adding more calcium to your diet, as well as taking an over-the-counter analgesic prior to any type of sexual activity. More severe cases may warrant a prescription for migraine relief medication, such as Imitrex, Zomig, or Amerge.

Note: For those who do not suffer from this condition, having an orgasm can actually reduce or eliminate headaches! Around 50% of individuals report that having sex or masturbating gives them complete relief from their pain. How's that for inspiration?


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I am a 30 year old male and have just started suffering from coital headaches. I have had two in the last two days, following masturbation. They are extremely painful, though the pain subsides after a few minutes and just a dull throb remains for the rest of the day. I am not unfit or over/under weight. I excercise regularly and eat well. I am sexually active, but have not told my girlfriend about this yet. I am embarressed to see a doctor so will try a period of absitenence for a week or so, and then use pain killers prior to sex.

December 29, 2010 - 5:20am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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