No Thank You

Sex Headaches Are A Real Thing — & There Are Even Different Types

If you’ve ever had a “thunderclap headache,” you know the deal.

Originally Published: 
Sex headaches can happen before, during, or after climax.
Ol'ga Efimova / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images

There are so many incredible side effects from a hot sex session: glowy skin, better sleep, improved immunity system, and, of course, that blissed-out look on your face. But other weird and sometimes troublesome side effects also come with a romp in the sack. If you've ever experienced a sharp headache after sex, particularly after you've orgasmed, you're not the only one. While males — and those who are more prone to headaches and migraines — are more likely to develop a sex headache, they can strike anyone at any time. In fact, it's thought that one in 10 adults has experienced this unfortunate side effect, which is also known as an orgasm headache. Sometimes it can feel like a dull ache at the back of your neck or develop into a throbbing pain in your head.

If you've struggled with a sex headache and are curious why it happens, how you can prevent it, and how you can get some relief, here's what you need to know.

What's a sex headache?

According to Dr. R.Y. Langham of the Between Us Clinic, three types of sexually-related headaches exist.

Pre-Orgasmic Headache

"It usually begins before an orgasm and worsens as you become aroused or sexually excited," Langham tells Scary Mommy. You will typically feel it on both sides of your head, experiencing a dull pain in your neck, shoulders, behind your ears, and at the back of your head. In some cases, it can also cause your jaw to tighten, leading to muscle stiffness and facial pain.

Orgasmic Headache

Say hello to the "thunderclap headache.” It occurs during the orgasm, a few seconds to a few minutes before reaching climax. "This type of sexual headache can be severe, lasting for hours after the orgasm," explains Langham. "If you have an orgasmic headache, it probably feels 'explosive,' occurs suddenly, and throbs continuously."

Post-Coital Headache

With this type of headache, you experience a pulsating or throbbing pain in your neck and head that usually arises a few seconds or minutes after climaxing. "This pain may last for a few seconds or minutes, or a couple of hours. The good news is that it rarely lasts for days and usually eases on its own," according to Langham. But you may also experience vomiting and, in severe and rare cases, experience dizziness, disorientation, and loss of consciousness.

Most of these headaches will only last a few minutes, but some people have reported suffering from them for a number of hours or days.

How should you treat these sex headaches?

No one likes it when a pounding head ruins their post-coital haze. Try the following suggestions for treating sex headaches or even nipping them in the bud.

  • Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough rest.
  • To prevent a sex headache, you might consider trying different sexual positions and/or taking a different role in your lovemaking, as some headaches could result from muscle contractions within the head and the neck.
  • Make sure you're adequately hydrated and nourished before engaging in sexual activity.
  • Langham also says if the headaches are frequent or severe, your medical professional may prescribe beta-blockers, which are medications used to lower high blood pressure, migraines, and heart disease. "Anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed to thwart sex headaches before they arise," she adds.

Who gets sex headaches?

It turns out sex headaches are more prominent in men than women, according to a Mayo Clinic study. However, people who also experience migraine headaches are more likely to get sex headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation.

When should you call a doctor?

The good news is most sex headaches are temporary and benign, and they should go away within a few hours. However, according to Langham, they could indicate a more serious underlying health condition, including a stroke, hemorrhage, and/or brain aneurysms.

You should also make an appointment with your physician if you suffer from any coronary artery diseases. Post-coital headaches can signify arteriovenous malformation. This occurs when the blood vessels connecting arteries and veins entangle, which could affect blood and oxygen flow. Also, if your head pain is accompanied by nausea or a stiff neck, it might be time to see your doctor. A loss of consciousness is also a severe sign and should be met with medical attention.

So, if your sex headache persist for longer than 24 hours or worsen, you should get checked out. Also, be on the lookout for severe symptoms like vomiting, feeling foggy, and being confused.

Your doctor may suggest medication used to treat migraines, that narrow blood vessels in your brain, which can relieve the pain. They may also suggest taking mediation before coitus to prevent your sex headache altogether. Be sure to check-in with your doctor beforehand if you are seeking medical treatment.

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