On a more serious note, however, a sex headache can be a warning of something much more sinister going on. Any sexual activity can trigger sex headaches. The exact prevalence in not known, although it is more common in women than in men.
SEX HEADACHE TYPES
There are two types of sex headaches – the pre-orgasmic and the orgasmic headache. Neuroimaging is needed to distinguish primary, benign causes of a sexual headache from secondary, potentially life-threatening causes.
SEX HEADACHE CAUSES
Abrupt-onset and slow-to-build sex headaches can be primary headache disorders not associated with any underlying condition. However, sex headaches associated with loss of consciousness, vomiting, stiff neck, other neurological symptoms and severe pain lasting more than 24 hours are more likely to be due to an underlying cause including:
- A widening or bubble in the wall of an artery inside your head (intracranial aneurysm).
- An abnormal connection between arteries and veins in the brain (arteriovenous malformation) that bleeds into the spinal fluid-filled space in and around the brain.
- Bleeding into the wall of an artery leading to the brain (dissection).
- Coronary artery disease.
- Use of some medications, such as birth control pills.
- Inflammation from certain infections.
Several theories have been put forth to explain the underlying mechanism of a primary sexual headache. The leading explanation involves exertion leading to a sudden increase in intracranial pressure or an inappropriate reaction in the cerebral vasculature. Neural hypersensitivity, similar to a migraine, may also play a role.
PRIMARY SEXUAL HEADACHES
There are two subtypes of primary sexual headache:
- Early sexual activity: usually of short duration and moderately severe. It is a tight, cramping, dull pain, often intensifying as sexual excitement increases. It is thought to relate to excessive contraction of the head and neck musculature that occurs before orgasm.
- Orgasmic: which is severe, comes on abruptly and occurs at the point of orgasm. Postponing orgasm can prevent a sex headache. It is the most common type of headache associated with sexual activity.
Primary sexual headache is not usually recurrent:
- It may appear suddenly, last for many months or years and stop abruptly.
- It may occasionally occur on a regular basis for several months or, rarely, years.
- Attacks may be intermittent and mild, or so severe as to scare the sufferer from attempting sex.
There appears to be a high comorbidity with a migraine, benign exertional headache and tension-type headache. The occurrence is not dependent on particular sexual habits. It most often occurs during sexual activity with the usual partner but also occurs during masturbation.
Risk factors include obesity, kneeling position during intercourse, the degree of sexual excitement, stress, history of a migraine and an exertion headache and a family history of a headache and arterial occlusive disease.
Pharmacological triggers may include marijuana, amyl nitrite, amfetamines, sildenafil and some anxiolytics.
Sensible actions to implement to avoid sex headaches include weight reduction, an increase in exercise, taking the passive role in intercourse and avoidance of drugs which act as trigger factors are all thought to be helpful.
Disclaimer: The author’s own professional and personal knowledge, and opinion form the basis of this column. This information and opinion are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition and consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on InShape News.