Parents sat on a sofa with their hands on their head and their kids running around.

Does sex help with headaches?

As headache cures go, this one sounds a little far-fetched.

Besides, who would be in the mood when their head is pounding?

But what if we told you that it’s not a myth, and sex could be the secret to unlocking the natural, drug-free pain relief we all dream of when a headache strikes?

Read on to find out more!

Sex- the ultimate relief for headaches? 

A 2013 study carried out at the University of Munster, Germany, surveyed 1000 patients who attended a headache clinic. 1

800 of these patients were experiencing migraine headaches and the remaining 200 patients got cluster headaches.

Of the group, only around a third engaged in sexual activity when they had a headache (and who can blame them)?

The results showed that in 60% of people, sexual activity significantly alleviated the pain associated with migraines. In some cases, the migraine disappeared entirely!

The bad news 

Does sex help headaches of all kinds? Unfortunately, it would seem not.

Far from being a headache remedy for all, the study indicated that in some people, far from helping relieve a headache, sexual activity only made the headache worse.

The study indicated that sex as a headache remedy works better for migraines, as the cluster headache patients reported mixed results with 50% of people experiencing cluster headaches reporting sex made their cluster headaches worse. 2

So, if you’ve got a cluster headache, it’s advisable to use your bedroom for rest and relaxation only until it passes.

So, why is sex good for headaches?

Technically, it’s not the sex itself. The key to headache relief is in the climax.

Orgasm is thought by researchers to act like a natural analgesic. 3 The reason for this could be in the surge of blood flow, feel-good endorphins and hormones released during a sexual climax. These include dopamine and serotonin – known as ‘happy’ hormones. 4

Currently not sexually active? You don’t have to miss out on this exciting headache remedy - solo sexual activity works just as well.

The aim is to release those endorphins – sometimes referred to as ‘nature’s painkillers’.

What else is sex good for

1. Getting to sleep

This is thanks to the hormone prolactin which is released during climax. Prolactin makes you feel sleepy and relaxed, helping you to nod off. 5

So, instead of watching that last episode of your favourite show in a bid to make yourself sleepy, see if sex can have you snoozing sooner.

2. Blood pressure

It’s no secret that sex appears to lower blood pressure. 6 7 This could be because it’s a cardiovascular activity, which strengthens your heart and makes it better at pumping, thus reducing the pressure on your artery walls. 8

Want to try something a little more SFW? Check out our top tips below on how to relieve headaches without any bedroom activity required.

What gets rid of a headache fast?

1. Massage

Headaches often have their roots in stress and tension.

Keeping stress to a minimum is always recommended for optimum health, and if you experience frequent headaches you’ll know they can be triggered by a stressful day.

What to rub to get rid of a headache?

No – we don’t mean like that!

A relaxing massage incorporating the forehead, back of neck, top of spine, jaw and eye areas is a great preventative measure to reduce tension headaches. 9 Massage, including self-massage, boosts blood flow and can relax tense muscles which can relieve headache pain. 10

After the onset of a headache, massage can really help too. You can do this anywhere and it costs nothing. Use firm pressure and simply hold your fingers in place, moving to a gentle circular motion if your pain allows.

If you can afford to drop everything and schedule a professional massage – excellent. For the rest of us, be assured you can do it yourself, or get a partner, family member or friend to help

2. Hydrate

What helps headaches more than drinking a big glass of water?

If your headache is one of the commonest type – a dehydration headache – then the answer is, nothing! 11 12 Once the headache hits, you’re already dehydrated, so the best approach is to sip water throughout the day to avoid getting to this stage. 13 The NHS recommends 1.2 litres daily, which is six to eight glasses. 14

3. Temperature

Temperature therapy might be the best thing for a headache.

A nagging headache can be soothed with the help of a warm compress, or temporarily numbed with the application of a cold pack. 15 According to the National Headache Foundation, those with migraine headache generally prefer cold packs. Sufferers with tension-type or muscle contraction headaches may prefer warm packs. 16

A microwaveable cloth rice bag can be placed across the forehead or the back of the neck, depending on where the source of the pain is. These generally shouldn’t be heated for more than 30 seconds, to avoid them getting too hot and burning the skin.

Ice wrapped in a flannel or small towel can be applied to the forehead or back of the neck, ideally while lying down to avoid it falling off.

The idea behind temperature therapy for headaches is to help reduce inflammation by either cooling the blood vessels through ice or causing the blood vessels to dilate through heat. Both can offer relief for headaches. Each individual and headache is different, so find what works best for you.

Warming and cooling pads are also available which are adhesive and mould to the shape of different parts of the head.

Last Updated: 19th November 2020


Related Topics

Migraine & HeadachesSexual Health
Bhupesh Panchal

Bhupesh Panchal,
Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: Apr 2019

Masters Degree in Toxicology and BSc Hons in Medical Biochemistry

Bhupesh started his career as a Clinical Toxicologist for Public Health England, advising healthcare professionals all around the country on how to manage clinical cases of adverse exposure to supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and agricultural products.

After 7 years in this role and a further year working as a drug safety officer in the pharmaceutical industry, Bhupesh joined Holland & Barrett as a Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate in 2019.