With so many totally unsubstantiated rumors floating around the interwebs, you’d be forgiven for rolling your eyes at the idea of sex being used as headache relief.

But we’re here with some rare news: The rumors are true! Research has found that having sex — with yourself or a partner — can help with some types of headaches, especially migraine episodes and cluster headaches.

Stick with us to learn what the research says, what orgasm has to do with it, and how to know if this sexy health hack will work for you.

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Fast facts

  • Sex works as headache relief for some people, especially for migraine episodes and cluster headaches.
  • Reaching orgasm appears to be important for finding relief.
  • Experts don’t know why but think it has to do with endorphins.
  • Though this is rare, sex can trigger migraine episodes or headaches in some people.
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For a long time, sex as a headache remedy was purely anecdotal lore. Plenty of folks knew it worked for them, but there wasn’t any clinical evidence backing it up.

Then, in 2006, two case studies emerged that brought the subject into the clinical space. Both people assessed had lived with cluster headaches for decades, and both had come to learn that sex was a quick and reliable route to relief.

Following that publication, a 2013 survey collected evidence on a much larger scale. According to responses from 304 people with chronic migraine and 96 people with cluster headaches, a significant number of people found that getting busy did, indeed, ease their pain.

If you’re a fan of Greatist, you know that we usually don’t advocate for making orgasm the goal of sex. But when it comes to headaches, it appears that reaching climax is important for relief.

In both case studies mentioned above, people explicitly cited orgasm as the point at which the pain would ease. How come? While we can’t say for sure, some experts point to endorphins.

Endorphins are substances your body serves up when you have an orgasm. They’re also famously known for their ability to minimize pain and help us manage discomfort.

Yes, this includes masturbation!

Sorry to be Captain Obvious, but we want to make it extra clear that masturbating is included in this definition of sex.

Regardless of which route you take, finding relief is all about making it to the land of O. In fact, one case study from 2015 specifically highlighted the relationship between migraine relief and masturbation.

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As exciting as the above research is, we want to be clear that sex is by no means a headache cure-all.

There are tons of different types of headaches. According to the available research, sex and orgasm are most likely to work for migraine episodes and cluster headaches. But even if you have those types of headaches, there’s no guarantee it’ll work for your unique body.

However, little is known about how sex affects other types of headaches. (Of course, feel free to do your own research next time you wake up after wine night.)

Yes, sadly, this is true. Although it’s rare, some people experience orgasmic and pre-orgasmic headaches — headaches that come on either during or after getting frisky.

Experts aren’t entirely sure why these sexual headaches occur, but some think they’re related to the tightening of muscles in your back and neck when you have sex. It’s also possible that the post-orgasm spike in blood pressure causes blood vessels to dilate, which is associated with headaches.

If sex regularly brings on headaches, mention it to a healthcare professional. It’s likely there’s a treatment out there that can bring you some relief.

Depending on who you are and how severe your headache is, sex may be the last thing on your mind. (In fact, according to research from 2015, many people who live with migraine also report being disinterested in sex.)

And last time we checked, it’s pretty hard to force yourself to get in the mood when you’re not feeling it. Luckily, there are other routes you can take for headache relief.

But first a caveat: There are A TON of different types of headaches and treatments to go along with each. Below, we’ve listed some common treatments for common types of headaches, but this is not an exhaustive list. For more info, check out our guide to treating every kind of headache.

For migraine

  • journaling to identify triggers and avoiding those triggers
  • prescription medications, including a class of drugs recently approved by the FDA called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) monoclonal antibodies
  • exercise
  • acupuncture and acupressure
  • massage
  • cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • essential oils

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

For cluster headaches

  • prescription medications, including triptans
  • inhaling pure oxygen
  • journaling to identify triggers and avoiding those triggers
  • verapamil and corticosteroids (for prevention)

For sinus, menstrual, dental, sexual, and other headaches

  • over-the-counter pain relievers
  • caffeinated beverages
  • exercise
  • cold compresses
  • essential oils
  • acupressure and acupuncture
  • B vitamins
  • 100 milligrams of CoQ10 supplements

Talk with a pro if headaches are interfering with your life

We can’t stress this enough. Headaches and migraine episodes can take a brutal toll on quality of life. A professional will be able to help identify the cause of your headaches and find treatment options that make the most sense for you.

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Sex — namely orgasm — appears to work as headache relief for some people, especially for migraine episodes and cluster headaches. Experts don’t know why, but it could be related to the release of endorphins, which are known pain relievers.

Sex doesn’t work as headache relief for everyone, and in some cases it can actually trigger a headache. If headaches are interfering with your life, making it hard to work or enjoy yourself, consult a professional.