Suffering a headache the morning after drinking red wine is a very common experience for many people in the community.
But are these headaches part of a hangover? Why do some people suffer a headache even after as little as one glass of red wine?
In particular red wines, which include shiraz in their mixture, appear a potent source of headache the next day.
A shiraz headache, may not in fact be caused by drinking to excess, but may be referred from the neck.
Headaches referred from the neck are cervicogenic in origin and are now a well established cause of this form of pain.
The referral of pain from the upper cervical spine is now well accepted in the literature, as well as clinical practice.
Common causes of these pain can be broadly describe in two groups according to their cause.
The headaches from acute trauma to the cervical spine such as that seen in motor vehicle accidents have an obvious mechanical cause.
The damage to the structures of the cervical spine involved in motor vehicle accidents can be extensive, and reflect the significant forces involved in these accidents.
More commonly seen today is the referred pain caused by the lack of enough movement.
People in sedentary work, and particularly those using computers for long periods of time, have a high incidence of headaches, associated with upper back and neck pain.
The static sitting and stooping postures associated with desk bound work can cause significant problems over a long period of time.
So how can red wine cause a cervicogenic headache?
The inflammatory properties of red wines and particularly shiraz are well known.
There is also a tendency for people to sleep longer and move less at night after consuming some wine that evening.
Add these factors to a history of long periods of sitting at a desk and you have enough of a problem to cause a headache.
So how can you stop this from occurring?
Certainly avoiding excess is the first step, and there is no doubt a large number of headaches following red wine are the result of a hang over.
But, just as you should consume water as much as possible to lessen some of the effects of alcohol, you should also look after your neck to prevent headaches.
Prevention can include gentle slow stretches of the neck movements in all directions, and regular changes out of static postures.
The same measures can be used to help alleviate the symptoms once they have occurred.
Heat can also be of benefit, as can having a good supportive pillow (and not falling asleep on the couch).
However, if headaches are common it is an indication that all is not well, and that there is potential for problems even without the help of the wine.
Consulting a Lifecare physiotherapist for an assessment and if required treatment will help determine if indeed the neck is contributing to the headaches.
From here, the management of the condition can be addressed.
Recent research conducted nation-wide right here in Australia has conclusively shown that the appropriate treatment including mobilisations and specific exercises is highly effective in resolving headaches of cervicogenic origin.
It has also shown that the improvements gained from this form treatment is usually long lasting.
For more information, see your local Lifecare practitioner.
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