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What Is Cephalgia?

26 September, 2012

cephalgia headache

Cephalgia or cephalalgia is the medical term for a headache. Although headaches are common and medications are available over the counter to help alleviate the symptoms, there are many types of headaches humans endure. Stress headaches are common, as are headaches that some people refer to as “hungry headaches” that result from low sugar in the system. We are also pretty familiar with migraine headaches that are usually quite severe, resulting in sensitivity to light and sound and usually accompanied by ever present nausea. But many of us have never heard of or experienced coital cephalgia.

Men have always joked or complained about how their girlfriends or wives will often say they aren’t in the mood for sex because they have a headache. But, the joke is not too far from the truth. Many women, and men, suffer from severe headaches before sex that the medical profession refers to as coital cephalgia. The more severe versions are really no joking matter. Let’s break down what cephalgia is and then look at the specifics of coital cephalalgia.

There are three major types of cephalalgia:

  • Primary: Migraine, tension, cluster headaches that do not result in another disease or illness.
  • Secondary: headache that results in another disease or illness.
  • Cranial Neuralgia: Caused by inflamed nerves in the head and upper neck.

Doctors are currently not sure why some people suffer from coital cephalgia, so they cannot say whether it is a primary or secondary headache.

How is Cephalgia diagnosed

Of course, we all self-diagnose our headaches because the symptoms are obvious. Headaches are felt in the head, sometimes around the eyes or temples, sometimes at the top of the head, and at other times we feel our headaches acutely at the base of the skull. Headaches are caused by different conditions.

If one’s headaches become so severe that medical care is sought, the doctor will examine you to reach a diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Initially, you will be interviewed to learn about the intensity of the headache, the location of the pain, how long the headaches last and possibly even learn what events seem to precede the onset of pain.

Your doctor will want to know about your general medical history and particularly about your headache history. If you have had a past history of migraines they will want to know what helped. If you have a lot of headaches, they will want to know what seems to bring them on and what medications you are using to help with the pain.

The interview process is part of developing a diagnosis from exclusion or ruling out other things that may be causing the symptoms. Some of the tests that may be included are CT Scans of the brain and possibly MRIs of the head and brain. The doctor is looking for possible organic causes for the pain such as a tumor or an aneurysm. If all other tests negate other causes you may indeed suffer from coital cephalgia.

If you suffer from coital cephalgia the doctor may be able to see a history leading up to it or maybe not. Treatments for this type of headache may include a recommendation to lose weight, which may help with hypertension and blood pressure. Your doctor may also prescribe the medication, Propranolol, which is usually prescribed for high blood pressure or angina, may help if taken prior to sexual activity.

Who tends to suffer from headaches during sex

migraineMore often than not, people who do suffer from chronic headaches or migraines will often suffer from coital cephalgia.  Patients who suffer from headaches during sex may feel better when knowing that they are not the only one suffering from this condition. In fact there are three different types of headaches in relation to sex:

  • Type I; early coital cephalgia: This is usually moderate in intensity and duration.
  • Type II; orgasmic coital cephalgia: The pain is abrupt and severe and lasts about 15-20 minutes.
  • Type III; longer duration of anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Occurs in conjunction to Type II.

Although both men and women suffer from this type of headache, more men than women do so, and usually the men are between the ages of 20-25, which is during the years of increased sexual appetite. Also, men in their 40s who may be slightly overweight have some hypertension, and a more sedentary life may suffer from this type of cephalalgia. Men tend to experience orgasmic coital cephalgia more frequently than women. Women tend to experience early coital cephalgia.

Although the headaches may seem more of an intrusion into the sex act, it can also be a precursor to more serious injury to the sufferer. In some cases a severe onslaught of coital cephalgia can lead to a medical condition called subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is actual bleeding around the brain.

In the event of a first severe headache that occurs before, during or after sex, one should seek medical care immediately to make sure a more serious injury to the brain has not occurred. The symptoms of a more severe headache in connection with sex include:

  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion
  • Decreased coordination

When we think of headaches we think in simple terms. We think of the headache’s location and intensity. Then we think of ways to alleviate the pain. We can use a cool towel on the neck, or rub the temples to massage away the pain. We may go lie down in a cool dark room away from noise or light if the headache is located near the eyes or frontal lobe of the brain where most migraines are located.

The onset of orgasmic coital cephalgia is another matter, completely.  The event happens while one is involved in a particular activity that negates getting a cool towel or having the temples massaged to ease the pain. Finding a quiet space won’t work either. The onset of the pain is so sudden and severe that it is actually described by medical practitioners as Thunderclap Headaches.

What is the prognosis for those who suffer from cephalalgia?

The pain from most instances of cephalgia are mild to severe but rather short term in duration. The pain from migraines is usually quite severe and can last for several days, but treatments ranging from bed rest to diet changes, to some effective medications have helped alleviate the symptoms. But, the pain and severity for coital cephalgia can range from painful early onset, to dangerously severe orgasmic cephalgia that can result on longer term post coital cephalgia that can last for days of months. The pain can be sudden and unexpected for younger men who experience it for the first time. Indeed, it can be very scary the first time a Thunderclap Headache strikes.

Men and women who suffer from severe cases of cephalalgia can rejoice, for the prognosis is good. Doctors are aware of the pain their patients are suffering and have figured out some ways to treat the symptoms and the pain.  Those who have experienced Type II and III headaches have shown a decrease in occurrences after a course of treatment that may include cessation of sexual activity for short period, weight management to help with blood pressure issues, and prescribed Propranodol prior to sexual activity.

It is not your imagination, nor is it your fault. The pain you feel is real and you deserve to seek effective treatment to help you have a healthier more satisfying life; including your sex life. Talk to your doctor about cephalgia and seek answers and treatment for your pain.