06 Apr Sex and Migraine Pain: Tips to Still Have an Enjoyable Sexual Experience
By Erica Nicole Carrasco, Achy Smile blogger
You will find many articles online that boast how sex will take away migraine pain. So why, then, are there so many references to “honey, not tonight” with the wife holding her fingers to her temple faking, or not, a headache? Truth—everyone is different. For some, sex is a relief for headache and migraine pain, for others, not so much. Further, there is an actual diagnosis for women and men with sex triggered migraine known as coital headache. Learn more about coital headache at here.
I can only speak from my own experience about sex and migraine pain. I don’t fall into the category of, “let’s have sex! I have a migraine!” with a smile on my face. When my husband gives me that “look” I cringe inside. I know that I love him, and I want to spend emotional, exciting, loving time with him. I also know that I will not completely enjoy it because sex is a migraine trigger right now. My migraine disease is sometimes triggered by muscle contractions from physical activity. When my heart rate elevates, this also sometimes triggers migraine. What’s a girl to do?!
At the moment, my husband and I are working on the logistics of sex. How sexy is that! I am not willing to sacrifice never having sex again because I do not want a migraine, no matter how disabling they are. Trust me, migraine is beyond a painful experience. Migraine is a neurological disease that is more than throbbing pain in one temple. With migraine comes a slew of neurological symptoms, that may include: nerve pain in the eye and through the face, muscle tension and knots, dizziness and/or vertigo, vomiting, nausea, double and/or blurred vision, inability to speak properly (aphasia), unilateral muscle weakness (hemiparesis), and more. I talk about my migraine insecurities on my blog: Achy Smile.
Here are a few methods I have found to still have an enjoyable, sexual experience with pain and migraine:
- Take pain meds! We don’t have sex daily (or even more than once a week!) because this amazing experience is sometimes a migraine trigger for now, so taking pain medication is not a difficult decision to make. I know for myself, and others, taking medication is a personal decision. While medications are life-saving, they can also bring about side effects. It is my personal decision to take pain medication about 30 minutes before sex, if given the chance. Sex is definitely a benefit that outweighs the risks for me.
- Use lubrication. It takes me some time to allow foreplay to do its job. Think about it, with foreplay comes kissing, touching and moving your body in many glorious ways. All this movement negatively affects the muscles in my jaw, neck, shoulders, hips and back. Kissing is one of our favorite things to do and now it’s something we don’t do often because I am unable to sustain it for a long time due to jaw pain. Because the foreplay we are used to isn’t easy for me anymore, lubrication is necessary to help get us going. It’s not just the lack of foreplay, it also helps because it sometimes takes me so long to find a good position. By the time I’m “ready” it’s almost like we have to start all over. Who has time for that!
- Comfort. You’ll laugh, but I seriously try out different positions to find the most comfortable for my hips. Keep in mind, I’m 38, so any position should be comfortable. Unfortunately, migraine isn’t my only health issue. I also have degenerative disc disease and it affects my lower back, hips, and legs. Because pain is also a migraine trigger for me, I have to test out different positions (all the fun ones too) to make it happen! Trust me, my husband and I have been through so much in my journey with chronic illness, we laugh our way through it all while still maintaining a sexual mood. I think my mobility issues keep our sex life interesting, that’s for sure.
- Positional Aids. Still in the same arena of comfort, I sometimes put pillows under my pelvis during missionary style, if my hips can handle this position. If not, I still utilize the pillow(s) to support my body if I need to. I used to be embarrassed to do this. I felt I was losing my youth because I needed “help” to keep a certain position for more than a few seconds at a time. I’m not exaggerating when I say “seconds.” I know it can be frustrating for you or your partner to start finding the pace, only for you to yell out “STOP” because you just can’t maintain that position any longer. I know some pain and pleasure go hand in hand, but because I have to stay careful, I can only handle so much. In addition to pillows from home, there are also cushions made especially for sex that are available in stores and online. I am planning to make that purchase soon because sex is becoming more difficult as time passes.
- Get sexy! I know from experience that it’s hard to feel sexy when you have to pay attention to how your body is moving or how just one touch might be painful. My mind does not allow me to solely focus on how my body is feeling sexually. It takes a long time for me to orgasm at times because my mind isn’t concentrating on just sex, I’m worried about how this position might hurt or that position might cause injury. I wish I could stop thinking about all the above and just feel and stay in the moment. We sometimes don’t get to finish, we have to stop, because of the pain. It’s soul-crushing because all I want to do is please my husband and be pleased. It’s sexual, psychological warfare. “Sexy” is not just in the eye of the beholder. It’s a state of mind within yourself. I am learning to embrace my uniqueness, what I see as flaws and all.
All of these tips may seem mundane, but they are effective. I have learned a lot about my body and what I need sexually. Together with my husband, we are finding what each other can do to have sex pleasurable. Sometimes I push through and fight the pain. Other times, it’s just too much. I say “I’m sorry” a lot and I shouldn’t. My husband knows this, he does not fault me. I know it’s my insecurity talking. Guilt for my inability to participate in the most natural of sexual activities. With every day, I’m learning and growing to love myself despite my disability. Sex is part of that healing.
About the autor
Erica Nicole Carrasco is a migraine blogger from Midland, Texas, now living in Fayetteville, North Carolina. She helps her husband, Stephen, raise their two teens, Marissa and Noah, through a life with chronic pain and neurological symptoms. Their daughter, who also lives with migraine disease, is a junior in high school learning how to thrive with Erica at her side. In her blog, Achy Smile, Erica talks about migraine and other chronic illnesses. Erica is learning how to let go and find a new purpose through migraine advocacy. Just recently, Erica shared the stage with prominent women in the health industry and talked about her life with migraine at BlogHer, a SheKnows Media annual blogger conference. With a candid and open dialogue, Erica is a Speak Your Migraine Network advocate and shines a light on a life with migraine with her husband by traveling across the United States telling their story. Together they discuss what their family life is like and how important advocacy is to the migraine community. Achy Smile is a partner with the American Migraine Foundation.