Migraine and Sex: The Pain Connection

The relationship between migraine and sex is well known, but there has been surprisingly little study on the topic.  For obvious reasons, many people are reluctant to talk about it, and often go for some time without being diagnosed because they’re nervous about talking to their doctors.

Recent study: Women, Migraine and Sex

But last year a study out of the Soroka Medical Center in Israel confirmed a connection that we should not find surprising at all.  The study focused on 33 young women who met the International Headache Society criteria for episodic migraine.  This was 23.9% of the group.  Each woman filled out a questionnaire asking questions about migraine and sex.  For example, researchers wanted to know if their sex life was influenced by health, whether they had a generally satisfying sex life, and various questions about desire, pleasure and so on.

It’s no surprise that health did influence their sex lives.  It might be a little surprising that, although sexual satisfaction was lower among women with migraine, general satisfaction from sexual life was not all that different from the general population (which is, of course, good news).

But one negative did pop up in the migraine group.  They experienced more sexual pain.

Why the Pain connection?

Now we know that some people get migraine attacks during or after orgasm.  Sometimes this has to do with the exertion (like an exercise headache), other times it probably stems from the more complex physiological changes in the body during intercourse.

But this is more than that – it relates to other kinds of pain that are not necessarily thought of as a part of migraine.  The authors of the study refer to sexual pain disorder, which involves pain in the pelvic area.  It usually affects women, but may also affect men.

The reason this isn’t surprising is that many migraineurs report that they are simply more sensitive to pain.  This research may confirm that theory.  It’s also a reminder that migraine impacts life beyond just a bad headache during an attack.

Yes, pain at other times may be related, as this migraine and sex study shows.  And migraine treatment may be the first step to treating physical pain that shows up at other times.  Many people don’t make the connection, but you may find that migraine treatment addresses more problems than you thought about at first.  Migraine is a disease that goes far beyond a headache every so often.

Keep your eyes open for more studies focused on migraine and sex.  It’s a complex issue that many many people are dealing with.

Read the abstract of the study Not only headache: higher degree of sexual pain symptoms among migraine sufferers. (specifically on migraine and sex)  More here on sexual pain disorder.

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4 comments… add one
  • Megan Oltman Feb 9, 2009

    Thanks for the info, James! Not a happy connection, certainly, but not a surprising one. It seems that as we experience more pain we experience more pain, kind of a chicken and egg problem. On the other hand, gentle sex and orgasm can relieve pain, including Migraine. One more thing we have to try to keep in balance as we do the complex dance that is managing our lives with Migraine!
    – Megan

  • Catherine Kelly Feb 10, 2009

    I agree with Megan.. I have found that sex can relieve a headache. Like it almost changes the pressure in my head and there is sudden relief after orgasm. I never turn down sex because of a headache.. because it may help..

  • James Feb 23, 2009

    Helps some and hurts others, I guess!

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