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Can Sex Really Provide Migraine Relief?

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I’m no stranger to frequent migraine attacks. In fact, I experience migraine symptoms so frequently that my house is stocked with many migraine relief products, and even my kids know my typical treatment regimen for migraine attacks. Unfortunately, there are days when none of my go-to remedies work at all, meaning I am left with no options but to curl up in bed and hope that time will work its magic on me.

About a month ago, I dealt with multiple days in a row of excruciating migraine pain despite my attempts to treat it. I had tried all the over-the-counter medications we owned, hydrating beverages, caffeine, ice packs, a heating pad, and essential oils. Finally, I told my children I needed to lie down for a while and closed myself in the bedroom. As I lay in bed with an ice pack across my forehead, my partner searched the internet for other possible solutions. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she threw out a somewhat unusual suggestion: sex.

In the moments that followed, I learned that, in one research study, 70 percent of people with migraine experience moderate to complete relief for their migraine pain after engaging in sexual activity during a migraine attack. Furthermore, many experts say oxytocin (which is released during sex) works as a natural pain reliever for all sorts of ailments, including chronic pain and, you guessed it, migraine.

This all seemed a bit odd to me because migraine attacks all but consume me. However, who am I to argue with science? So, as my partner and I discussed it, and we decided to try a low-impact method so I could essentially continue to lie with my ice pack and not move. We also agreed to stop at any time if I suddenly felt worse or decided it was too awkward.

While our “experiment” was short-lived due to interruptions, even this brief stimulation provided enough relief for me to make it through the rest of the day. Which, after battling migraine symptoms for two days straight, was enough for me.

Sex is a difficult topic for many people, especially those who live with certain health conditions or have certain histories. However, sexual activities can also provide pain relief in a natural, pleasurable way — if you’re open to it.

Although my partner and I obviously discussed this “treatment method” in the heat of the moment (pun intended), I would absolutely recommend discussing this relief option with your partner when you are not in the midst of a migraine attack. You can share the data, explain your feelings on the subject, and give your partner the time and space to share how they would feel. Open communication is best anytime sexual intimacy is involved, especially in situations like this. Of course, if you feel unsure about how to start the conversation, you can always send your partner this article as a subtle hint.

If you and your partner decide this may be a treatment method you want to try, you’ll also want to discuss the “details,” like positions that may work best, expectations for the activities, and how you’ll communicate during the session. You may even want to decide on a safe word so your partner knows you need them to stop immediately or other keywords that can help your partner know if they need to do something differently.

Also, if you deal with comorbidities that may make sex during a migraine attack questionable or dangerous, you may also want to discuss this option with a doctor before trying it. And, of course, if your partner isn’t open to trying these activities as a migraine treatment (or if you don’t currently have a partner), solo play is always an option. Just remember that the goal is pain relief, not additional distress.

While it may sound a bit strange, sex can (and does) provide migraine relief for many individuals. Don’t knock it until you try it, but also make sure you’re adequately prepared before you dive into this treatment option head first.

Getty image by Rawpixel.

Originally published: April 4, 2022
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