363682 tn?1299489362

Headaches following alcohol consumption ...

   For around three or four years now, I have been suffering from headaches some two hours or more after the consumption of any amount of alcohol - although typically as few as two drinks upwards of any kind of alcohol.  The headaches come on slowly but persistently and follow a line from the left side of my neck across the top of my head to just above the left eyebrow.  They are not sharp pains but more of a constant 'throb' and can go on for hours.  Pain relief medication does nothing and the only relief I can get at all is the application of something topical like '4-Head' or the American 'Head-On'.  Although I have been a reasonably 'active' drinker in the past, if anything now, at the age of 61 (male), I rarely have more than two drinks at a time ... which is why I'm surprised at the onset of these headaches.  My own doctor has, thus-far, not taken it very seriously and tends to take the line that, after years of 'getting away with it, maybe you've finally developed an allergy!'  
474 Responses
Avatar universal

Aside from alcohol, what other known events or conditions trigger your headaches?

Are there any other associated symptoms with your headaches like blurring of vision, seeing bright waves or lines?

Any associated weakness or numbness that comes with the headaches?

Any underlying systemic disease like hypertension and diabetes?

Do keep us posted.
363682 tn?1299489362
  Thanks for your interest Vanessa.  
  No ... apart from 'mild' hypertension (for which I am prescribed Perindopril 2mg.), I can't say there are any other noticeable accompanying symptoms.
  What I have noticed in recent months though is that I am starting to get hot flushes - usually in early evening - and exacerbated by having eaten a hot meal and/or a preceding alcoholic drink.
  The only other thing I thought about yesterday after I posted is that the severity of the headaches can be eased by finger pressure on the back of the neck or even by the way I sit ... for example, if I sit upright (as opposed to leaning back in a soft seat) and if I am watching television with my head inclined to the left as opposed to the right.  The headaches are also nowhere near as bad if I'm moving around for some  reason.
   As far as 'triggers' (although I'd rather it were not the case!), alcohol is almost exclusively the only one.
   I do have to be honest and say that, having been an airline crew member for almost all of my working life, the amounts of alcohol we, as a group, consumed when we were away would probably have horrified most medics.  
   Nevertheless, these symptoms have only really manifested themselves since I retired last year .. and I would say that my alcohol consumption since that time has dropped by around 80% - although I also have to concede to having at least a single drink on most days ... but rarely more than two.
Avatar universal

How would you describe this flushing that you have ?

Is this a sensation of warmth in the body or on the face?

Is this asssociated with any redness in certain parts of the body?

Is your hypertension well controlled?

Flushing may be associated with food and alcohol intake as in your case.This may be a normal reaction of your body since hot and spicy meals as well as alcohol may cause dilation of blood vessels and increase the blood flow  to the area which causes the flushing.

However,it is best to have  this assessed by your physician.Hormonal imbalance, an underlying allergic reaction,and certain medications may cause this.

Have your cervical spine checked by your physician. A cervical spine headache may be a differential.
363682 tn?1299489362
   I'm really impressed and grateful for your response Vanessa.  Our medical service isn't what it was in the UK and, although I get on well with my doctor, she and I really haven't solved many of my (thankfully small thus-far) problems to date.
   The flushing is exclusively around my face, is certainly warm and I am not aware of any elsewhere.  I also have not noticed the flushing during the taking of any other meals during the day - again just the evening one - but it is also true to say that the other meals are rarely preceded by alcohol. The onset of this would probably have coincided roughly with the prescription of the tert-butylamine, but I cannot be certain of that.    
   Strangely enough, I have had chiropractic treatment 'on and off' for lower back pain that began (as I thought) as a pulled muscle on the middle left side just above the buttocks.  Since this treatment, although much better, the back pain is still nagging around following any lifting/bending - but, with hindsight, the onset of the back problem may well also coincide with the onset of these headaches.  
   What I don't understand is that, even if the headaches are associated with this back problem, why there is always an 'alcohol accompaniment' to their onset.  And, in closing, I also have to stress that the headaches and flushing do not seem to be related to each other given their timings.
   Thank you so much again for your time and patience.
Avatar universal

You are welcome.

Just continue to observe your symptoms.At this point it may be something physiological. Some patients present with more flushing after taking alcohol than their peers.This has some molecular and genetic explanation which has something to do with  alcohol metabolism in the body.

In the absence of other symptoms though (eg weight loss,changes in bowel movement,neurological deficits) ,this may not be very urgent.

One important thing to exclude here though is an allergic reaction.Watch out for any diffiulty of breathing, rash that involves the entire body and generalized sensation of flushing.

Continue to have a close follow up with your doctor.
363682 tn?1299489362
Hi Vanessa (if you're still out there?) ...
   Didn't really get anywhere with the local doctor - they're very busy and this really didn't rate up there with some of the urgent issues they deal with.
   However ... I have been gradually working my way through your suggestions and (wonder of wonders!) I think you may have hit it on the button with the allergic response suggestion.
   Having read various Google-search items about this which seemed to revolve around an excess of histamine being a possible cause, I decided to try a lapsed prescription I still had in the cupboard for hay fever - Neoclarityn (deloratadine) 5mg.
   The result is noticeable.  When taking one of these little blue tablets before I socialise, lthough I still get a slight ache after even a couple of drinks, it's nowhere near as debilitating as the previous migraine-type headaches that I was suffering previously.
   I'm sure you can all read more into this than I can - but, given that I really do actually enjoy a social drink, what should I be looking to do:-  increase the dose of my new 'wonder drug' so that I don't get any headache at all ... or take the headache as a warning that my system really doesn't want me to drink alcohol at all?
   Just for the record, the reason that this is a 'lapsed' drug is because I haven't actually had any hay fever symptoms worth talking about for the last couple of years - after many years of suffering with them.
Avatar universal
I have EXACTLY the same symptoms as you have described.

2+ drinks trigger a left-side headache that spreads from the neck to the temples to above the eyebrow, accompanied by a general flush. These headaches occur 99% of the time. I, however, am 23 years old and I've had these symptoms ever since the first time I ever picked up a drink. I too have several lower back lumbar problems and I also have TMJ. I've tried countless options to prevent these headaches, until I learned that the source of the problem does have to do with faulty alcoholic metabolism and breakdown (linked to several things: acetaldehyde poisoning, blood vessel dilation/constriction, tension headaches, etc.)

As some solutions regarding medication, taking Pepcid AC 30 minutes to an hour before drinking took care of the flushing, but not the headaches. Taking ibuprofen tablets while drinking does help with the headaches, and I finally thought I found the answer to my problems, but that method stopped working after I relied on it too often. (yes, mixing ibuprofen+alcohol is not recommended but one cannot resist some social drinking EVERY TIME, right?)

I now rely on using the ibuprofen method, reduced to doing it once in a while.

I've never met anyone with similar symptoms as mine, and I thought my problem was a specific, personal one. After countless hours of researching for solutions and stories online and not finding much reference, it's somewhat relieving to see that we basically share the exact same problems with alcoholic drinks and headaches.

At over 60 years of age and being able to drink previously, perhaps you've come to produce less of some alcoholic enzyme, and perhaps I've always lacked that enzyme. It could also be a specific but screwy tension/nerve/muscle thing.

I see that your comments were posted in March of last year. If you were somehow to read this now it would be interesting to see if you've made any progress or new discoveries regarding this problem.
Avatar universal
Hi Guys,
Just to let you know, I'm also Exactly in the same boat, except I have no back pains to complain about. But a single glass of wine or beer is enough to trigger a throbbing headache on the frontal lobe and almost in the same degree everywhere else in the head, and hot flashes in the face. It's extremely disturbing, as it kills my social life after a drink.

I'll tell you what I've done to fix this:
-Full blood work: nothing unusual. Trigylercirin is high, but hey. 320 where <150 is normal.
-my doctor has prescribed AntiHestamin and allergy medicine ( patanase, veramist) to clear up any de-congestion that I would have in my nasal system.
- MRI :I don't have sinus problems, just a minimal normal cavity, which my doctor too has along with 25% of the population. So that's not it.

I'm 27, and this started at 26. This all started after I got sick while in vacation drinking in Europe. One illness, and I've been alcohol intolerant and ear congestion. My doctor gave up, but he never tried allergy tests.
Avatar universal
I also get the same headaches sometimes after even one drink. Same spot, left side, up the neck to the eyebrow. Neck seems a little stiff even. I do have a history of ear problems, most times they were infections and lack of drainage. I am 28 with no other health problems. I never noticed a problem until a couple years ago when I consumed many drinks but the headaches have gotten more severe and are triggered with much less alcohol. I also have only found relieve by taking 800 to 1200 mg of ibuprofen. It is so bad I don't even enjoy it anymore.  :(
363682 tn?1299489362
   Sounds like there's a growing band of sufferers here!
   As a result of the previous posts, I've now done an updated evaluation of what I tried before and come to the conclusion that neither the anti-histamine nor the ibuprofen really do make much of an impact on these headaches when they happen.
   However, I now think that the application of analgesic gels (the types that feel really icy on your skin) right across the back of the neck from right under my left ear downwards then right across to the other side ... then right across my forehead from one side to the other just above the eyebrows, DEFINITELY makes a difference in my case.
   Just for reference, I even got the same result from 'BackAid Back Balm' - although they got very sniffy when I informed them of this 'other' use for their product and flatly refused to have anything to do with it!  (I think they've got out of business now anyway).
   Either way, if I couple this with not sitting 'slumped' anywhere (like with another beer in front of a TV screen!), I find the pain disappears altogether - although it sometimes needs a second application after an hour or so.
   Like everyone else, I suspect, I thought I was alone in this problem.  I'm sure someone out there in the medical world knows exactly what we're talking about - they just haven't read these posts yet!
Avatar universal
This list is growing.. I just recently have started with the same symptoms of having the neck pain up the left side up to the top after a few hours of drinking a minimum of 1 glass of any type of alcohol. It lasts throughout out the night until late morning. I'm 42yrs old, had my share of drinking when I was younger but drink a couple drinks, on an average of 1-2 x's a month , if that. No lower back pain, no hypertension, no TMJ. I do have thyroid issues for the last 2 years, but the headaches just started.
I'd really like to know why this may have kicked in, and try to resolve that issue, than trying to cover up the pain when it does happen.
If anyone has anymore insight, your posting would be appreciated!
Avatar universal
Add another to the list.  Used to be I'd only get the headaches after drinking about two glasses of red wine.  But recently, I've started suffering from the same problem after consuming any kind of alcohol.  Since being at bars and clubs is part of my job, it's a bit frustrating, but I have cut down drinking to once a week.  Next time I go out, I'm going to try taking an antihistamine an hour prior to drinking.
Avatar universal
I am 24 and suffer all the same problems. My headaches are so debilitating that if I move the "throbbing" gets worse. Most time only sleep will help but I have found that Excedrin Migraine does work. It is no fun having these headaches because it is hard to have the social drink with my friends. I have also discovered that certain beers do it more then others, for example any bud light will for sure give me a migraine. the more expensive the beer the less likely I will have a headache. But, excedrine has been my only real relief. Hope this helps.
Avatar universal
I too suffer from migraines after drinking any kind of alcohol, in varying quantities.  Mine are more like Russian roulette.  I can get a migraine after one, sometimes after two, sometimes, no headache after 3 or more.  But the pain is escruciating and long lasting.  Only my expensive prescription migraine medicine cures mine.  My pain is always in the same spot, which is over to the right of my right eye above the forehead.  I never had this occur until about a year and a half ago.  It doesn't matter if its wine, beer or mixed drink.  I do suffer with TMJ, take hydrochlorithiazide for having one high blood pressure reading and have degenerative disc disease  (common).  I am 52. I basically was reading these posts that caught my eye to be assured that there wasn't some underlying disease that I wasn't aware of.
363682 tn?1299489362
   Well ... I think I put the original post in about this one.
   For what it's worth, I was also suffering from high blood pressure but an investigatory angiogram this week as to whether I was 'furred up' (necessitating a stent or possible bypass) found that I wasn't.    
   However, after much putting of medics' heads together, they decided that I did have an enlarged heart with a 'left branch bundle blockage'.
   After more consultations, they decided that my previous history of quite heavy drinking as an airline crew member (off-duty I may add!) may have contributed to the problem.  Thus, I am off the booze for three months to see if it helps to reduce the enlargement and (presumably) increase my blood flow.
   This finding may be totally unrelated to the headaches, but, of course - maybe due to the restricted blood flow - they may be connected.  Currently, I am only two days into this 'abstention' - grumpy but holding firm!
   Will post again when / if there's something to report.
Avatar universal
Hi all
Im 21 and would happily drink a bottle of spirits and wake up the next day feeling fine. Last weekend i did the same though and had the most intense headache ive had for a long time. I thought it may just be a one off but then Two nights ago i had a few beers and again, the next morning i had a bad headache although not as bad as the one previously mentioned. So last night i only had 5 bottles of beer and this morning again i have a headache and hot flushes! Really confusing me. Ive been getting back and shoulder pain the last couple of weeks too. Im gonna work through some of the suggestions on here and hope it helps. Dont wanna cut down on my drinking yet!!!
Avatar universal
I have the same reaction that everyone is describing after VERY small amounts of alcohol.  I also find them accompanied by heart palpitations and burning eyes.  It very much feels like an allergic reaction.  I am 33 and drank all through my 20's without trouble.  Last night I drank a tonic water that gave me the EXACT reaction and did a little research.  I found that quinine is a common allergen and many people who cannot process it are unable to uptake serotonin and it recommended triptophan supplements.  I don't know if it is related but I am going to try these supplements.  Has anyone else heard of this?
Avatar universal
This is crazy that this is happining to so many people with no definate answers to why...i also suffer from headaches on the left side of my neck and back of my head. as i sit here typing this i currently have one and jus doing sum research on it
363682 tn?1299489362
  S'funny, but I have had answers from some of the medics out there in the past about this ... but, lately, seemingly coinciding with more people reporting symptoms, it seems to have gone very quiet on here.  Am wondering if anyone knows something they can't or shouldn't comment on, but the incidents of this seem to be growing daily.  Can anyone from MedHelp comment ... ?
Avatar universal
I just started experiencing headaches as well. I've consulted with my doctor and he gave me a prescription of Naproxen.  It works really well but I'm concerned that I have to take drugs to enjoy alcohol. He did recommend a followup if this should persist and it has. So back to the doctor I go. I will post suggestions if I find any problems.

PS One solution that I found that really worked well, stay away from coffee. Drink water after the headache starts, it sometimes resolves it quickly. These headaches maybe a sign of dehydration.
363682 tn?1299489362
   ALL comments about this welcome!  However - and I'm sure these are available in the USA too - I've tried sachets of Dioralyte (an oral electrolyte powder used in cases of dehydration here in the UK) both before and after alcohol ... and, in my case, it made no difference at all.
   I think I've now tried just about everything ... from the above to anti-histamines, topical and tablet analgesics, etc., etc., but, as I've also mentioned above, I have still been getting these headaches having been off the alcohol altogether for two months now - although nowhere near as bad.
   In my case, I'm sure it's linked to a back problem which may be exacerbated by alcohol because it only really gets noticeable when I sit at the same angle in the same seat (I know, I know ... there's an answer to THAT one!).
Avatar universal

I have almost all of the symptoms listed by the group (I thought I was the only one).  Up till about 2 years ago I could drink with out a problem.  Now anytime after about 2 drinks a massive pain will run from the (right) side of my neck and up towards my eyebrow, starting slowly and then getting more and more painful.

No allergies or TMJ.  I take klonopin for anxiety.  I do sit crouched over at work, and have had some minor back issues, but like Mark said where does the alcohol come in to play then?

I've used every method mentioned in this thread with different amounts of success.  I now use ibuprofen when I can but it loses effect once you have to take 8 or more.  Most other painkillers seem to work, when used in the early stages of the migraine (I don't recommend you take tylenol and drink).  Later on it's prescription meds and Head-On.  I don't know why but that stuff makes the pain a lot more dulled.

Well, thanks guys for posting, my hats off to ya Mark.  Anyone have any tricks to getting rid of these things? please post.
Avatar universal
I have suffered from headaches my whole life and alcohol is a definite trigger.  I had unsuccessfully seen many doctors about my condition and was only able to get the proper diagnosis of my problem a few years back.  I now know that I get what are known as "cluster headaches".  They are definitely triggered if I consume alcohol.  I have been helped by taking a blood pressure medication called verapamil which minimizes the frequency and severity of the headaches.  As I said previously I never drink alcohol because it is a definite trigger.  When I do get the headaches I take imatrex, which generally relieves the headache pain within 30-60 minutes.  Please check the web for more information about "cluster headaches" or suicide headaches as they are sometimes called.  Here is a good link for general information.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cluster_headache
Avatar universal
I'm 32 and have been having the same problem for a couple of years now, i've decided to look into it and have come across this thread. 1 beer and i'm fine, 2 and i get the migranes, and they really hurt! I too have found different beers effect me more than others, some beers i have to keep away from. I've often wondered if they add aspartame (arterficial sweetners, known to cause many problems from headaches to coma and death) to certain beers, i have certainly noticed a different taste to these beers over others. I get headaches from drinks containing  aspartame, which is understandable, Aspartame collects in the body as Methanol, which in turn breaks down into formic acid and formaldehyde. I'm sure that the adding of aspartame to alcoholic drinks is the cause, which would explain why everyone is being effected now, when they could drink till they passed out before, often with not much of a hangover the morning after. Oh yeah, if i drink past the headaches, the hangover the next morning is like hell, i'm unable to move, my head hurts that much, i'm sweating because of overheating and dry-heaving what must be stomach lining, nothing that a traditional English breakfast and a coffee would fix!
I've just Googled "aspartame in beer", and it's in Bud, (noticed the comment above) maybe i will try and look into which breweries use it and which don't, and see if that helps. Hope i've thrown some light on the subject for you all, and hope you all find a way round this problem, as i do to. Darrell
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