Background: Headache associated with sexual activity is a well-known primary headache disorder. In contrast, some case reports in the literature suggest that sexual activity during a migraine or cluster headache attack might relieve the pain in at least some patients. We performed an observational study among patients of a tertiary headache clinic.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent to 800 unselected migraine patients and 200 unselected cluster headache patients. We asked for experience with sexual activity during a headache attack and its impact on headache intensity. The survey was strictly and completely anonymous.
Results: In total, 38% of the migraine patients and 48% of the patients with cluster headache responded. In migraine, 34% of the patients had experience with sexual activity during an attack; out of these patients, 60% reported an improvement of their migraine attack (70% of them reported moderate to complete relief) and 33% reported worsening. In cluster headache, 31% of the patients had experience with sexual activity during an attack; out of these patients, 37% reported an improvement of their cluster headache attack (91% of them reported moderate to complete relief) and 50% reported worsening. Some patients, in particular male migraine patients, even used sexual activity as a therapeutic tool.
Conclusions: The majority of patients with migraine or cluster headache do not have sexual activity during headache attacks. Our data suggest, however, that sexual activity can lead to partial or complete relief of headache in some migraine and a few cluster headache patients.