Headaches with Orgasms?

Dr. Carol Queen Ph.D answers questions from our social networks:

Q: Headaches w/ orgasms? It’s been getting worse, & now distracts from the orgasm every time. Anything that can be done?

Oh, owww! Headache with orgasm is pretty much no fun at all, and is more common than you might think. I conferred with my partner Dr. Robert (formerly known as The Chiropractor You Can Tell How You Really Hurt Your Back) on your behalf, and here’s the gist of our knowledge. First, headache is often vascular and/or associated with body tension, two things that are likely to change with sexual arousal. Headache can also be associated with brain chemistry — another thing that arousal is likely to change! So let’s break this out a little.

When you’re getting close to orgasm, what’s happening with your body? What position are you in? Are you masturbating, say, with great focus, speed, and a lot of muscle tension? Are you tensing up a lot during partner sex, ripping the sheets off the bed and curling up or arching back? These would indicate high levels of muscle tension. (Dr. Robert once diagnosed a guy whose severe neck pain got worse when he got close to orgasm — the guy eventually admitted he did crystal meth and masturbated for hours all hunched up. Tina does raise a person’s tension levels. Not suggesting that’s what’s up in your case… just saying.)

And what about your breathing? Are you holding your breath, or breathing very fast?
Either of those can change the oxygen level of your blood, and either hyper- or hypo-oxygenation might result in headache.

How’s your blood pressure, in general? That’s one indication of your vascular health, though it’s possible the doc has never gotten out the blood pressure cuff when you’re just about to come.

Speaking of docs, go see one, if you can — preferably a migraine specialist. Make sure you tell her or him the part about the orgasm — don’t be shy. It’s possible such a doctor might be able to prescribe something that will ease those symptoms, and if it’s true (as some suspect) that these headaches may be related to migraine, a specialist is likely to be better informed about this situation than a GP.

Finally, to test whether breath and tension may be playing a part, try an experiment when you have some time on your hands: masturbate very slowly and languidly, taking all the time you need to build up to orgasm without any of the tension that you might usually experience. Make sure you breath deeply but regularly. Stay as relaxed as you possibly can. Most people find it takes a while to get used to orgasm-seeking without any speed or tension, but it’s important in your case — you’re getting information about whether the headache hits you even if you’re doing absolutely nothing physical (that is, tension-, breath-, or position-wise) to induce it. This will be useful information to tell the doctor and may help with diagnosis. Good luck!



Dr. Carol Queen

Carol Queen has a PhD in sexology; she calls herself a "cultural sexologist" because her earlier academic degree is in sociology: while she addresses individual issues and couple's sexual concerns, her overarching interest is in cultural issues (gender, shame, access to education, etc.). Queen has worked at Good Vibrations, the woman-founded sexuality company based in San Francisco that turned 35 years old in 2012, since 1990. Her current position is Staff Sexologist and Good Vibrations Historian; her roles include representing the company to the press and the public; overseeing educational programming for staff and others; and scripting/hosting a line of sex education videos, the Pleasure-Ed series, for GV’s sister company Good Releasing. She also curates the company's Antique Vibrator Museum. She is also the founding director of the Center for Sex & Culture, a non-profit sex ed and arts center San Francisco, and is a frequent lecturer at colleges, universities, and community-based organizations. Her dozen books include a Lambda Literary Award winner, PoMoSexuals, and Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex-Positive Culture, which are used as texts in some college classes. She blogs at the Good Vibes Magazine and at SFGate's City Brights bloggers page and contributes to the Boston Dig. For more about her at carolqueen.com.

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