Alcohol pain: causes of body pain due to alcohol

Alcohol pain is pain in the lymph node area that occurs during or immediately after alcohol consumption. It is a typical symptom of Hodgkin’s disease, a malignant lymphoma. Hodgkin’s disease (HL) or Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a form of lymphoma that often occurs in young adults and has a relatively high cure rate. Alcohol pain is a painful, burning sensation in the glands where Hodgkin’s lymphoma is located, which occurs a few minutes after drinking (small amounts of) alcohol and can last for hours. The cause is unknown in 2023. Less than 1% of patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma are affected. Alcohol pain is therefore very rare.

  • What is alcohol pain?
  • Causes of body pain due to alcohol
  • Call a doctor
  • Diagnosis and course
  • Symptoms and course
  • Diagnostic research
  • Complications
  • Treatment of alcohol pain
  • Prognosis
  • Prevention


Lymph node cancer and the lymphatic system / Source: Blausen Medical Communications, Inc., Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-3.0)

What is alcohol pain?

The term ‘alcohol pain’ is a very special symptom of lymphoma. Although rare, when it does occur it is said to be very typical of Hodgkin’s disease (HL) or Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, the exact relationship between the symptom and the disease cannot be explained in 2023. Anyone who notices such alcohol pain should consult a doctor so that they can determine the cause with a simple blood test.

Causes of body pain due to alcohol

Hodgkin’s disease is a malignant disease in which cancer cells from the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, groin or chest can affect the entire body and lead to various symptoms. As of 2023, the exact causes of the disease have still not been clarified: it is believed that there is a connection with the Epstein-Barr virus, which also causes glandular fever or mononucleosis. Suppression or weakening of the immune system is seen as a risk factor. The age structure of Hodgkin’s patients shows two frequency peaks, a large peak in the third decade and a slightly smaller one in the seventh decade of life. This means that younger people in particular are affected, men slightly more often than women. It is unclear why alcohol pain sometimes occurs with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. What is certain, however, is that this symptom only occurs in a small percentage of Hodgkin’s patients. However, then it can be a typical early symptom, which does not occur in this form in any other disease.

Consult your GP for alcohol pain / Source: Michaeljung/

Call a doctor

Alcohol pain should always be assessed by a doctor. The first point of contact is your doctor. First it must be clarified whether it is actually alcohol pain caused by Hodgkin’s. If the pain occurs mainly in the shoulder and neck area and is accompanied by symptoms such as itching or paleness, it is probably Hodgkin’s. If the pain can be observed specifically after consuming alcoholic beverages, a doctor’s visit is required. The same applies if the symptoms occur suddenly or if they get worse quickly. The general rule is: if there is a connection with alcohol consumption, a doctor should clarify the symptoms. If left untreated, the underlying Hodgkin’s disease can worsen and lead to complications. You should also make an appointment with your doctor if there is swelling in the armpit or neck, or if the complaints are accompanied by night sweats and rapid weight loss. Decreased performance, an enlarged spleen and/or enlarged liver, as well as itching or redness are other warning signs. In case of severe pain in the neck and shoulder region, possibly accompanied by dizziness and motor disorders, an emergency physician should be notified immediately. The underlying disease has a high chance of recovery if diagnosed early.

Diagnosis and course

Symptoms and course

Many patients describe alcohol pain as pain that occurs with the first sip of alcohol and often disappears quickly. The pain can manifest itself, for example, as a shoulder or sore throat, which is often difficult to pin down for a long time. Anyone who suspects a connection with alcohol consumption should have the matter clarified by a doctor. Hodgkin’s can manifest itself at any given time with a multitude of symptoms, which are often not associated with cancer, causing the diagnosis to be delayed unnecessarily because they are not taken seriously. A non-painful and suddenly noticeable swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck or armpit is a common reason for the first visit to the doctor. Furthermore, symptoms such as fever, night sweats and unexplained severe weight loss (more than 10 percent of the original weight) may occur. Decreased performance, swelling of the spleen or liver and itching as well as other skin symptoms may also occur during the further course of the disease. In the late phase of organ involvement, in principle all symptoms are possible.

Diagnostic research

The doctor will first take an accurate anamnesis, which means he will ask questions about the circumstances of the pain, any other complaints and previous diseases and possible cancers in the family. The physical examination then focuses mainly on feeling the lymph nodes in the neck, groin and armpit, as well as Hogdkin’s manifestations in the liver, spleen and skin. Since swellings in the lymph nodes are not (well) noticeable in almost 90 percent of cases, a blood test can then be done to detect changes in the number of blood cells and increased inflammation levels. If this is all normal, then it is very unlikely that you have Hodgkin’s disease. The decision for further imaging diagnostics depends on the history and other findings from the examination. Clear evidence of Hodgkin’s lymphoma can only be obtained by a biopsy, that is, the removal of tissue from a suspected lymph node for examination under the microscope.


Alcohol pain, a symptom of Hodgkin’s disease, can lead to several complications. If not treated, the pain initially becomes more intense and, under certain conditions, the pain spreads to other parts of the body. If initially only the neck or shoulder area is affected, the underlying lymphatic system disease later spreads to the groin area and to the abdomen. This is accompanied by complications such as fever, severe pain and night sweats. In addition, significant weight loss can be observed in a short time. This leads to reduced performance, itching and other symptoms. In some cases, internal organs, such as the liver and spleen, may also swell. In the further course, disorders of the nervous system and hormonal balance occur and the urogenital tract is also affected. As a result of the disease, the immune system is also weakened, with fungal and viral infections, tuberculosis (TB) and paraneoplastic syndromes (group of symptoms that occur when substances secreted by cancer cells disrupt the functioning of organs or tissues) predominating . The underlying disease, Hodgkin’s disease, has a good chance of recovery if diagnosed early.

Treatment of alcohol pain

Hogdkin’s disease is treated with extensive chemotherapy and often also radiation (radiotherapy). Other treatment options include surgery, immunotherapy, hormone treatment and targeted treatments. Hogdkin’s was one of the first cancers for which treatment was available. Medical research has come a long way, so that in 2023 the once incurable Hodgkin’s disease can often be treated with good results.


The prognosis for alcohol pain depends on the underlying cause. If Hodgkin’s disease is indeed present, the outlook without medical treatment is very poor. However, with adequate treatment, the prognosis is very favorable and approximately eighty percent of those affected can be cured. If the disease is diagnosed at a very early stage, cure rates of more than ninety percent can be achieved. If the reason for the alcohol pain is an allergy or an intolerance, it may mean that you cannot drink alcohol for life. However, causes of alcohol pain other than Hodgkin’s are very rare.


Starting treatment early is extremely important for the chance of success. So if you notice pain in certain parts of the body after drinking wine, spirits, beer or other alcoholic consumption, it is advisable to make an appointment with your doctor. In 2023, there are no specific activities to prevent the development of Hogdkin’s lymphoma.

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