It’s perhaps one of the most common excuses women use to avoid sex.
However, passionate nights beneath the sheets can cause painful headaches, a sex researcher has warned.
Dr Margaret Redelman’s claims are surprising, considering evidence shows sex can offer relief for some migraine sufferers.
The ‘sex headaches’ – which affect men more – come in two forms, according to the member of the Australian Society for Sexologists.
She claimed they can be ‘traumatic’ and ‘frightening’ for lovers, especially if it’s the first time they’ve been struck with the debilitating pain.
The first, called pre-orgasmic headache, is triggered by a build-up of pressure that increases as sexual excitement does.
And the other, dubbed orgasmic headache, have an ‘explosive, throbbing quality and appear just before or at the moment of orgasm’.
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This thunder-clapping pain has been described as feeling ‘as if you’ve been hit over the head with a cricket bat’.
Dr Redelman explained both forms of the sex headaches in the British Journal of Medical Practitioners.
Why does it happen?
Scientists are unsure as to what the root cause of the pains are, but theories suggest it occurs because sex is similar to exercise.
During an energetic romp, blood vessels dilate – like what happens when someone undertakes strenuous exercise such as weightlifting.
This process has long been linked to headaches, with some experts suggesting that the increase of blood flow allows for pain-producing hormones to reach the brain.
Around one per cent of people experience headaches during or after sex, known medically as orgasmic cephalgia.
A sign of something more sinister?
It is concerning, Dr Redelman added, because sex headaches could be a sign of heart disease and should be taken more seriously.
Writing in the journal, Dr Redelman revealed that men are around four times more likely to suffer from the sex headaches.
And those in their early 20s are deemed at most risk of falling victim to the pains, alongside adults in their 40s, she noted.
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Being overweight and having high blood pressure are thought to leave men at the highest risk of the debilitating headaches.
And they strike most often ‘when the patient is tired, under stress or attempting sexual intercourse for the second or third time in close succession’.
Sex headaches can last for between five minutes and two hours, but the pain can drag on for the following two days, Dr Redelman warned.
Relief from sex
Dr Redelman’s claims come after a German study in 2003 suggested having sex is more effective than medicine for headaches.
More than half of migraine sufferers who had sex during an attack experienced an improvement in symptoms, University of Munster researchers found.
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One theory is sex works by triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, which act on the central nervous system to eliminate headaches.