Sex may be a natural headache painkiller, according to scientists from Munster University, Germany. Their research has shown that sex can relieve migraines and, to a lesser degree, cluster headaches, the worst kinds of headaches. To reach this conclusion, researchers gathered data from roughly 400 people suffering from one of these two types of headache, undergoing treatment in the past two years.
More than half of migraine patients who had sex during a crisis felt an improvement in the symptoms. According to the study, one in five patients became pain-free at the end of sexual intercourse. Among people suffering from migraines, 33% said they had sex even when they felt pain. Of these, 60% of migraine patients experienced a partial or complete recovery from the symptoms.
Among cluster headaches patients (a type of pain that only affects one side of the head) the results weren't so conclusive given that half of those who engaged in sex complained that it only made the pain worse. Only 36% of people with a cluster headache reported an improvement in symptoms after sexual engagement. This type of headache affects more men than woman.
Contrary to what the data might suggest, the use of sex as a natural analgesic against headache attacks is more common among men, accounting for 36% of participants, than among women, with 13%. Thus, scientists have concluded that, although it’s not a common practice, sexual activity can lead to a partial or complete pain relief in some patients.
The exact mechanism behind the alleviating effects of sex is not fully understood. While there are several possible explanations for the results such as changes in blood pressure, the main hypothesis for the improvement of headache symptoms is the bodily release of endorphins during sex. Endorphins are neuropeptides responsible for the sensation of pleasure, and are known to relieve pain by acting on the central nervous system.
As noted by the German scientists, this is a preliminary study. A number of smaller studies on the effect of sex on headaches have been done before, but further research is necessary to complement the current data and help better understand the phenomenon.
The migraine drug market is expected to grow on a global level until 2020. As research gathers more data about the mechanisms behind sexual alleviation of headaches, the migraine drug economy is probably going to be significantly affected. Another intriguing implication of this research is that the infamous headache excuse to refuse sex, notoriously popular among women, is probably going to be put under scrutiny by the general population.
Debunking myths behind socially adopted patterns of behavior is one of science’s greatest virtues. But despite this new-found knowledge, it is unlikely that the habits of late night intimacy will change significantly. The sexual chemistry of a couple is contingent to a multitude of factors.