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363682 tn?1299492962

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?1299492962
  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?1299492962
   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?1299492962
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?1299492962
   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.
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