23 august 2023

Relationship between alcohol and primary headaches: a systematic review and meta-analysis

BACKGROUND: Headache is one of the most common neurological symptoms. Many previous studies have indicated a relationship between primary headaches and alcohol. Drinking has been associated with increased risk of tension-type headache (TTH) and migraine. However, recently published studies have not confirmed this relationship. The existing literature is inconclusive; however, migraine patients avoid alcohol. Therefore, the primary objective was to provide a reliable assessment of alcohol intake in people with primary headaches; the secondary objective was to identify any potential relationship between alcohol consumption and headache risk.

METHODS: This study was based on PubMed, Embase and Web of Science database searches performed on 11 July 2023. This systematic review was registered in PROSPERO (CRD42023412926). Risk of bias for the included studies was assessed using the Joanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tools. Meta-analyses were performed using Statistica software. The Risk Ratio (RR) was adopted as the measure of the final effect. Analyses were based on a dichotomous division of the respondents into “non-drinkers” and “drinkers” for headache patients and matched non-headache groups.

RESULTS: From a total of 1892 articles, 22 were included in the meta-analysis. The majority demonstrated a moderate or high risk of bias. The first part of the meta-analysis was performed on data obtained from 19 migraine studies with 126 173 participants. The risk of migraine in alcohol drinkers is approximately 1.5 times lower than in the group of non-drinkers (RR = 0.71; 95% CI: 0.57-0.89). The second part involved 9 TTH studies with 28 715 participants. No relationship was found between TTH diagnosis and alcohol consumption (RR = 1.09; 95% CI: 0.93-1.27). Two of the included cluster-headache articles had inconclusive results.

CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol consumption and migraine are inversely correlated. The exact mechanism behind this observation may indicate that migraine leads to alcohol-avoidance, rather than alcohol having any protective role against migraine. There was no relationship between TTH and drinking. However, further studies related to primary headaches and alcohol consumption with low risk of bias are required. Additionally, patients and physicians should consider the latest medical data, in order to avoid the myths about alcohol consumption and primary headaches.

Additional Info

  • Authors

    Blaszczyk B.; Straburzynski M.; Wieckiewicz M.; Budrewicz S.; Niemiec P.; Staszkiewicz M.; Waliszewska-Prosol M.
  • Issue

    Periodical: J Headache Pain - Volume: 24 - Number: 1 - Edition: 20230823
  • Published Date

    23 august 2023