Can sex relieve migraines?

Those who have experience might notice feeling much different after a session of love-making. More specifically, many, if not all, go into a relaxed state throughout their body. This relaxed state of pleasure includes not only your sex organs and limbs but even your head. For this reason, it is my contention that headaches and other non-inhibitive aches and pains should not keep you from having sex, but rather be an incentive to have sex.

According to CBS news Researchers at a German university, the University of Munster, conducted an observational study in which they found that sex does in fact have a pain relieving effect. The study was made up of 1,000 patients, 800 of which suffered from migraines whereas the other 200 suffered from cluster headaches. The study was done in the form of an anonymous survey and asked patients to respond to questions over time regarding sexual activity and the effect of said activity on frequency and intensity of headaches. When I examine how this study is set up, I notice that there is a specific pool of subjects with a particular diagnosis, meaning it is not completely randomized however the fact that the survey is anonymous hopes to eliminate any response bias. In addition, because this is an observational study there is no control group or placebo. This leaves all data to be subject to the personal opinion of the patient. I believe this makes it much more difficult to infer causation because the simple fact that the study is asking if the patient feels better after sex may lead them to thinking that it’s inherently true regardless of how they actually feel.×400.jpg

The results of the study, as reported by Cephalalgia, showed that only 38% of the migraine patients and 48% of the cluster headache patients even responded to the survey. The results become even slimmer when considering only 34% of migraine patients and 31% of cluster headache reported having sex while having a headache. This means that only 7.6% of the original sample size, or 132 patients were able to give valuable evidence either linking or not linking sex to pain relief. If this small sample is representative, it shouldn’t make a difference however once again it seems that there could be a large volunteer response bias in this case. In addition, when making assumptions it is best to have a larger sample in order to decrease the margin of error. If more research were to be done on this topic, and larger samples were to be used, it may be a much easier and clearer case to prove the alternative hypothesis in this case.

If we continue to break down the numbers, in migraine patients, 60% reported an improvement in condition, and 33% reported the symptoms became more severe. As for cluster headache patients, 37% reported an improvement of their symptoms and 50% reported the symptoms became more severe. In total, of the 1000 people surveyed only 71 reported an improvement in symptoms after some kind of sexual discourse. In this case, we can even look statistically. The null hypothesis is that “Sex does not affect (or worsens) the symptoms of a migraine or headache.” The value of p-hat for the purposes of testing the null hypothesis would be .46 and from what I’ve learned in my stat 200 class this is too high to reject the null hypothesis.

After analyzing this study though, can we still make the assumption that sex relieves pain? The lack of challenge to this study makes me believe that this discovery doesn’t need to be profound in order to be believable. Many of us can take personal experience in place of science and use it to our advantage. Similar to the study we looked at in class that examined the risk of leaving the tv on at night, this is a problem where we can personally ask ourselves…what can it hurt to try it?

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