Having a headache or migraine triggered by sex or an orgasm is a pretty cruel emotional injustice. Fortunately, preventing a sex-induced headache or migraine is surprisingly simple. And, no, the answer is not to avoid having sex. The most commonly prescribed treatment is indomethacin, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory that’s a close relative to ibuprofen, taken an hour before sex.
Those of you who don’t want to go to the doctor may deduce that you can pop a couple Advil and avoid the headache. Please don’t! The headache or migraine may be triggered by benign causes like a tightening of the head and neck muscles or a response to increased blood pressure and heart rate during orgasm. However, it could also be the sign of a brain hemorrhage, stroke, heart disease, glaucoma, or other disorder. Instead of attempting to treat it yourself, please see a doctor to make sure there’s not a serious background cause.
Several trustworthy online sources say that taking a triptan an hour before sex is an effective treatment for orgasm-induced migraines. I asked a headache specialist about this and was told that this could cause a stroke. The specialist said that because both triptans and orgasms constrict blood vessels, the blood vessels could constrict too much during an orgasm. I’m not sure which source is correct here, but I stay on the side of caution and only take a triptan after an orgasm has triggered a migraine.
Dizziness, tremor, hot flashes, fatigue, cold hands and feet, mental fogginess, nausea, increased pulse. I was excited to discover this cluster of symptoms and thought them to be warning signs, also called prodrome, that a migraine was coming on. The earlier a migraine is detected, the earlier it can be treated, thus increasing the likelihood it can be aborted altogether. At least a dozen times, I took a triptan when I recognized these symptoms coming on and avoided the migraine pain completely. I’d feel funky for an hour or two, then feel much better. Yay for triptans, or so I thought.
Grocery shopping one day, the symptoms hit and I didn’t think to take a triptan. The symptoms were so severe that my cart functioned as a walker. I felt awful when I got to the car and knew I should go home. But I really, really, really wanted to go to Goodwill.
I pushed through, risking worsening the migraine. I put on a hat, sunglasses and earplugs to get through the store and my decision-making abilities were severely curtailed. Still, an hour passed and on my way home I felt better than I did before I went to the thrift store. So much better that I spent the afternoon cooking and cleaning.
I began experimenting with not taking a triptan when the symptoms hit. They still lasted for an hour or two and then lifted. Exactly the same pattern as when I medicated for migraine.
Are these migraine symptoms at all or is something else causing these flushes of autonomic distress? My doctor speculates medication side effects and I’m going off my antidepressants to see if that’s the case. I have to wonder if they are part of some other disorder, maybe adrenal or autonomic. Any ideas?
Pfizer, the maker of Relpax, announced a new migraine education – and advertising – campaign today. Called “Be Stronger Than Your Migraine,” the company says the campaign provides migraine patients with tools to identify how migraine affects their lives, recognize how they interfere with their own treatment and ways to have a better relationship with their doctors.
There’s not much information available on it yet, but I’ve requested the “toolkit.” At the surface, it appears to be little more than a direct-to-consumer drug ad. You know the line: If you tell your doctor to prescribe Relpax, you’ll be in control and your pain will go away.
Am I being cynical? Yes. Volatile? Certainly. I’m tired of drug companies and media outlets telling me that I just have to be strong and my headaches will go away. Yes, it’s important to be assertive with your doc and to think about ways to become more involved in your treatment. It’s also important to grieve the losses that you’ve had because of your headaches. And to think critically about who is giving you such advice.
Mostly I’m angry because Pfizer, like many other drug companies, is promoting the idea of the miracle cure for migraine. Relpax might be the drug that improves migraine pain. But it isn’t going to work for everyone. It’s dangerous to believe in a miracle cure, because you’ll be crushed if it doesn’t exist for you.
This might turn out to be a great and empowering campaign and I’ll have egg on my face. I’ll share the information with you when I receive the materials. You can also look into it for yourself. Yahoo! has the press release, the campaign site has an overview and the Relpax website has more detailed information.
I have a Relpax prescription waiting for me at the pharmacy. Who knows, maybe it’ll be my miracle drug. In any case, you should know that one of the reasons I started this blog is because so much migraine information online is from advertisements thinly disguised as education campaigns. You can be sure that I’ll never push one medication or treatment over another.