Who needs painkillers to ease a severe headache when a little hanky panky could work just as well?
New research suggests that having sex during a migraine or cluster headache attack could relieve or even completely stop the excruciating pain.
In the discussion summary published in international headache journal Cephalalgia, a team of neuroscientists from the University of Münster in Germany said they were surprised at their findings.
“This was unexpected because a migraine normally intensifies with physical activity such as walking or going up the stairs, and patients often avoid any activity.”
However, they said, “our data suggests that sexual activity may reduce pain. The results also show that sexual activity during a migraine attack can even stop the attack”.
About 400 regular migraine and cluster headache sufferers were surveyed in this observational study.
The aim was to find out if they had ever had sex during a severe headache and whether the pain had subsided or intensified afterwards.
Findings showed 34% of the patients had had sex during a migraine attack and 60% of them felt the pain had improved afterwards.
About one in five participants reported complete relief, more than half reported moderate relief and just under a third, or 29%, reported mild relief after sex.
However, a local expert was a bit skeptical about the findings, saying they were interesting observations but needed further research and careful analysis.
Professor Girish Modi, the head of neuroscience at Wits, said: “Most people who suffer from migraine or cluster headaches don’t even want to be touched during an attack, let alone have sex.”
However, the German study also showed that sex’s pain-relieving effects were different when it came to cluster headaches.
It revealed that of the 31% who admitted to having had sex during an attack, only 37% reported an improvement in pain, while half reported that the pain became worse.
“For cluster headaches, sexual stimulation may not be strong enough to influence the pain,” said the authors, who also highlighted the fact that migraine attacks tend to last longer than cluster headache attacks.
While the association between sex and headache relief was observed by the authors, Modi warned: “It is not a recognised treatment for migraine or cluster headaches.
“A migraine is a very complex illness with no specific treatment and sex is definitely not one of those treatments.”
The study also warned that although sex may have worked for some patients, it wouldn’t work for everybody.