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Date of last update: 8/21/2017.

Forum Name: Rheumatology Topics

Question: Shoulder Pain Seemingly Induced by Alcohol

 jess_march - Tue Feb 21, 2006 11:23 am


I am not sure if this question belongs under joint pain or allergy. I have not been able to find information anywhere so far that matches with my recent problem. I appreciate any suggestions you have.

I am a 30 year old woman and a few months ago I started experiencing terrible aches in my right collar bone area. At first I passed it off as stress but eventually I made the connection to alcohol and now I am certain that this is the trigger but I don't know why or what it means.

The pain always originates in the right collar bone area though the severity can range from vague ache to preoccupying pain. If it's a bad case, the pain will often run down my arm and into my fingertips. Eventually, it will end up in the left collar area as well. The pain does not FEEL as if it's muscle but more like the bones themselves hurt.

The pain begins normally just a few minutes after I start drinking (maybe 1/4 glass of wine for example). I've experimented a little and seem to see that red wine is consistently bad but all alcohols cause some degree of reaction. I haven't been able to find a pattern between mild and severe reactions.

I'm not a big drinker but wine research, tasting, etc is kind of a hobby. If I have to cut it out of my life, I will, but it would be great to find another option.

Could I have developed an allergy here? Or is it possible that the alcohol is aggravating a symptom of something else?

Thanks in advance for any advice!

 Theresa Jones, RN - Tue May 23, 2006 5:46 am

User avatar Hi jess_march,
In my opinion I would not find this symptom associated with an allergy but more possibly related to another causative factor. Do you have any other general symptoms aside from the alcohol induced pain when alcohol is not used, ie, weight loss, night sweats, enlarged lymph nodes, fever?
Theresa Jones, RN
 jess_march - Tue May 23, 2006 6:05 am

Hi there. Thanks for your reply.

Well since I posted this, I have seen an orthopedic specialist who believes that I have some sort of compressed nerve in the neck. Indeed when I read about the symptoms for a slipped/herniated spinal disk, they sound exactly like what I've been experiencing. Since February the pain worsened so that it was present all the time, and not only when I drank any alcohol. At present, I am taking ibuprofen to keep the pain down. If and when I have any alcohol, the pain worsens.

In a few weeks I'll be having and MRI and Xrays to be able to get a better handle on the problem. Meanwhile, the doctor could think of no explanation for the alcohol connection. He also said that 30 was extraordinarily young to have a herniated disk.

My latest thought, is whether or not it is possible that there is a connection to the birth control I was taking, Depo Provera, which is now known to cause bone density loss. As soon I learned this a few weeks ago, I changed birth control methods. I have not yet mentioned this to my doctor but will do so at our next appointment next month.

Any other thoughts?

Thanks again!

 Theresa Jones, RN - Tue May 23, 2006 6:41 am

User avatar Hi jess_march,
Calcium supplements are typically recommended, not only regarding the use of Depo-Provera, but other birth control medications as well. Be sure to discuss this with your physician when you go for your follow up evaluation. Nerve compression depending on the location may cause symptoms of shoulder/arm pain and numbness in which if this is the causative factor for your symptoms the MRI will be able to determine. Alcohol induced pain is a rather unusual symptom. If you are not experiencing any of the constitutional symptoms that I mentioned previously, fever, unintentional weight loss, etc. then I would not relate it to a particular condition I had considered. Alcohol use may disrupt calcium balance having a negative impact on bone health but is usually seen in "chronic" alcohol users rather than in "occasional" users. I hope that when your time permits, you will post an update. Best wishes.
Theresa Jones, RN
 jess_march - Thu Apr 15, 2010 9:55 am

Well, 4 years is a bit late for an update from me but I just randomly happened to stumble upon this thread today and wanted to update it in case anyone else happens to read it and can get some help from it.

As it turned out, I did in fact have Lymphoma. After several more doctors and an MRI in 2006, no one could explain the problem. When I re-read your reply today, I can see that you suspected Lymphoma too! I wasn't having any other symptoms initially as it turns out that alcohol pain tends to be one of the first symptoms experienced in Lymphoma. Eventually by August 2006, I came upon a large hard lump sticking out of my collarbone. And from there a series of new tests, chest x-ray, biopsy, PET scan, etc. all of which confirmed a diagnosis of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. I was a Stage II with bulky disease present in the chest cavity.

I proceeded with chemotherapy and radiation therapy through 2007 and am happy to say I have been in remission since then. It was a long hard road and a life experience that has truly shaped who I am today. But I feel lucky to have survived it.

Thanks for your help at that early stage Theresa. I hope someone else may read this and get the help they need as soon as they can.

Very best.


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