What is Orgasmic Headache?

What is Orgasmic Headache?

Orgasmic headaches are intense and can start suddenly just before or during orgasm.

These headaches are usually harmless and a person can usually treat them with over-the-counter pain medications. However, headaches during sex can sometimes indicate a more serious condition.

In this article, we’ve covered what orgasmic headaches are, what they look like, and why. We also explore risk factors, prevention, treatment and when to see a doctor.

An orgasmic headache is the primary headache some people experience during sexual activity. A primary headache is a condition, not a symptom of another health problem.

A person may experience an orgasmic headache just before or during sexual climax. These headaches can happen during masturbation or partnered sex.

Orgasmic headaches are one of two types of primary sex headaches. The other type is sexual benign headache, which doctors call a pre-orgasmic headache.

How Does It Feel?

People often experience an orgasmic headache just before or during an orgasm.

It hurts:

  • Dense
  • Severe
  • like thunder

An orgasmic headache can also be painful around the eyes.

About 75 percent of people experiencing these headaches reported feeling pain on both sides of their head. Walking around can make the pain worse.

A common feature of primary sex headaches is severe pain lasting 5-15 minutes, which gradually subsides.

The pain may come on suddenly, decrease, or sometimes last for several hours or even days.

Unlike migraine headaches, orgasmic headaches don’t usually come with nausea or sensitivity to light or sound.

In contrast, a sexual benign headache feels like a dull background headache. This type of pain builds up slowly rather than suddenly and can resemble a tension headache.

Some people experience headaches both before and during orgasm.


Doctors don’t yet know what causes an orgasmic headache, but it could be a type of vascular headache. These are caused by swollen blood vessels in the brain.

Blood pressure rises rapidly when a person has an orgasm. This surge in pressure causes the blood vessels in the head to dilate rapidly, and this can trigger sudden and intense headaches in some people.

A sexual benign headache, on the other hand, is caused by increased muscle tension. When a person is sexually excited, the muscles in their neck and head may contract, which can trigger tension headaches.

Risk factors

Anyone can experience orgasmic headaches. However, a 2010 review reports that men are four times more likely than women to experience headaches from sexual intercourse.

According to a 2013 case report, the average age of onset of these headaches is between 40 and 49.

People with a history of migraine headaches, exertion headaches, or coughing pains are more likely to have orgasm pains.

Prevention and Treatment

Orgasmic headaches usually go away on their own. Some people experience orgasmic headaches only once, while others experience them repeatedly over weeks or months.

According to the International Headache Society, studies show that 40 percent of people with these headaches have experienced it for more than a year.

If a person is experiencing a headache during intercourse, they should talk to their doctor about how best to manage it.

Treatment options for orgasmic headaches may include over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and indomethacin, and prescription medications such as triptans and beta-blockers.

A small study from 2007 found that people who took indomethacin or beta-blockers before sex were less likely to experience sex headaches.

Headaches during sex can sometimes be caused by another condition. In this case, these are secondary headaches. Treating the underlying problem can help reduce or prevent these headaches.

When to See a Doctor

People who experience headaches during sex should speak to a doctor who can help determine whether it is a primary or secondary headache. Primary sex headaches are not usually a cause for concern.

However, not all headaches during sexual activity are primary headaches.

Serious conditions that can cause headaches during sex include:

  • Infections
  • coronary artery disease
  • brain aneurysm
  • stroke risk
  • Celebral hemorrhage
  • Arteriovenous malformation

Secondary sex headaches that have a serious cause are most likely to occur alongside other symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • a stiff neck
  • Loss of consciousness

People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.


An orgasmic headache is a type of primary headache that occurs during sexual activity.

Orgasmic headaches can be caused by the rapid dilation of blood vessels in the brain. This occurs when a person’s blood pressure rises before and during orgasm.

Headaches during sex are usually harmless and tend to go away on their own. Some people only have one orgasm headache, but others may experience it repeatedly over the course of several months.

Anyone who experiences a headache during sex should see a doctor for evaluation. Treatment options for orgasmic headaches include over-the-counter pain relievers and prescription medications such as triptans and beta-blockers.

Source: MedicalNewsToday, What is an orgasm headache?, 2019.


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Allen, M., et al. (2010). Focus on therapy of the Chapter IV headaches provoked by exertional factors: Primary cough headache, primary exertional headache and primary headache associated with sexual activity. https://thejournalofheadacheandpain.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1007/s10194-010-0261-9

Frese, A., et al. (2007). Headache associated with sexual activity: Prognosis and treatment options. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=17919305

Margo, K. (nd). Case studies in headache: Headaches with sexual activity. https://headaches.org/2009/04/06/case-studies-in-headache-headaches-with-sexual-activity/

Other primary headache disorders. (n.d.). https://www.ichd-3.org/other-primary-headache-disorders/4-3-primary-headache-associated-with-sexual-activity/

Primary headache associated with sexual activity (orgasmic and pre-orgasmic headache). (n.d.). https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/orgasmic-pre-orgasmic-headache/

Sexual benign headaches. (n.d.). https://headaches.org/2007/10/25/sexual-benign-headaches/

Utku, U. (2013). Primary headache associated with sexual activity: Case report. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5586787/

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