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Masturbation for period pain (and pain in general)

By Maya Khamala

While masturbation is often encouraged as a form of self care, the lesser known truth is that it can also be a really effective form of pain relief. 

While fleeting aches and pains can be a nuisance, coping with monthly menstrual pain (hurrah), or living with chronic pain or recurring migraines can put a serious damper on your quality of life. Finding ways to manage can sometimes seem like a journey with no end in sight. 

Chances are, if you've seen a doctor for any of these issues, you’ve had painkillers prescribed. If your doctor was particularly thorough, they may have even recommended certain lifestyle or dietary changes, or other forms of therapy. But show me a GP who prescribes a good ol’ dose of masturbatory bliss and I’ll promptly eat my words.

What science says

One study found that women’s pain tolerance increased by 40% when the clitoris was “self-stimulated.” That tolerance increased to 74% when the result was orgasm

For some people, masturbation can work just as well (if not better) than other forms of pain relief. Not to mention, it’s free of cost and side-effects alike.

Here are just a few of the ways that masturbating can help relieve pain, be it fleeting, persistent, or chronic.

It can dissolve your perpetual period cramps. 

Those of us who already associate masturbation with pain relief tend to think of period cramps first—and with good reason. 

Period pain, for the 84.1% of women who experience it, can be uncomfortable and, for some, so unbearable it leaves them bedridden. But research has shown that masturbation can lessen that pain.


“Happy hormones” reduce pain

A global study launched in 2020 looked at “menstrubation.” According to head researcher Christopher Jones, “Masturbation was shown to not only decrease the intensity of menstrual pain but it also decreased the frequency of menstrual pain over a three-month period.” Why? “Happy hormones” of course. 

When we push our own buttons (so to speak), endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, prolactin, and other pain-reducing hormones are released. They react with receptors in the brain and alter the way we experience pain.

Blood flow means increased sensitivity

Orgasm and masturbation, in part due to the release of the happy hormone dopamine, increase blood flow to the uterus and pelvic area, helping to relax the muscles and reduce menstrual spasms and cramps. According to NYC pelvic pain specialist Sonia Bahlani, this increased blood flow also affects the genitals, “leading to increased sensitivity and pleasure.” Menstrual blood is also a great natural lube, so really, that time of the month is the time to experience a mind-blowing orgasm.

Hot tip: if the only thing holding you back from trying out masturbation for period pain relief is the potential mess, all you need to do is get a bit creative. Consider wearing a tampon or menstrual cup while you focus on clitoral (and/or anal) stimulation rather than vaginal. And if vaginal penetration is your jam, there’s always a solo shower sesh to keep you squeaky clean while you max out.

It can alleviate your malevolent migraines. 

Period pain isn’t the only pain that can be helped with masturbation. According to the NHS, migraines affect 20% of women, and treatment is rarely straightforward. Masturbation, however, has been shown to relieve symptoms. 

While some find they can reduce their headaches and migraines with the use of prescription opioid-based medications, the endorphins and oxytocin released by the brain during masturbation likewise activates the opioid receptors in the brain, ultimately having the same effect as some pain medications.

It can soothe your sore muscles. 

When it comes to inflammation or dull pain in the muscles (whether the result of injury, overuse, or an intense workout), our tolerance can be boosted by masturbating. This is because of testosterone, which is also part of the complex cocktail of hormones invoked by sexual arousal and release. 

Some research suggests that testosterone, which helps reduce inflammation in the body, can help people better manage their pain, and ultimately withstand higher pain thresholds. This would explain why some physical aches and pains are vastly reduced after masturbating. There is even evidence to suggest that testosterone deficiency can actually lead to joint and muscle pain. 

It can help you manage your constant chronic pain. 

From fibromyalgia, to arthritis, to serious injury, the causes of chronic pain vary widely in frequency and severity. For all the reasons that have already been listed, masturbation in general and orgasm in particular can also work wonders on improving the outlook for people suffering from pain that reoccurs or persists. 

Chronic pain sufferer Angie Ebba writes, “While it is only one of many pain management tools I use…orgasm is one of the most fast-acting things I can do for temporary relief of my pain, and as such, began using it a few times a week for a quick reduction in symptoms…when my pain is high, as well as reaching for my pill bottle and a glass of water, I also reach for a natural pain reliever...some neurotransmitters, courtesy of my sex toys.”

It can reduce your exhausting emotional pain.

Even under “normal” circumstances, there are plenty of bad mood triggers to dodge. The hormonal fluctuations associated with menstruation, for instance, can be enough to throw your mood off without an external reason. But who doesn’t feel like a better person after rubbing one out? There’s a scientific reason for that.

During climax, the release of happy hormones lower your levels of cortisol (AKA the stress hormone), thereby providing a palpable sense of relaxation. In turn, it also helps you sleep better and deeper. While endorphins have been linked to improved mood, oxytocin can help you think clearer, which can in turn help you better understand your emotions, and serotonin can lend you a more positive outlook, thereby reducing anxiety and depression.

Bottom line: masturbation is a gift from the goddess! Even on a bad day, its joyful juices can be a soothing balm for your pain. So don’t be afraid to add it to your arsenal.

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