Spinal headaches sometimes occur as a result of a complication during a spinal tap or epidural. These procedures require that a needle punctures the fluid-filled membrane surrounding the spinal cord. This puncture allows the fluid to leak out which changes the pressure around the spinal cord and brain. If enough fluid leaks out, the fluctuation in pressure can cause an intense headache.
Most spinal headaches, or postdural puncture headaches resolve on their own, but severe cases may require treatment.
Spinal headaches are usually debilitating and typically make it difficult to carry on with your normal daily activities. Some are described as a dull or throbbing pain, and most people experience pain that gets worse when sitting and standing and better when lying down. Other symptoms include dizziness, sensitivity to light, ringing in the ears, nausea, and vomiting.
Symptoms can start within 3 days of a spinal tap or epidural. The most common symptom of a spinal headache is pain that basically disappears when lying down.
Spinal headaches are treated in order to restore pressure and replenish fluid which was lost due to a leak caused by the spinal tap or epidural. Most spinal headaches require no treatment, as they resolve themselves within a few weeks.
The best treatment for a spinal headache is to keep yourself hydrated. This will help rejuvenate your cerebrospinal fluid lost during your procedure. Drinking caffeine is also effective. Though you may not feel like doing much if you have a spinal headache, bed rest is not typically an effective treatment.
Severe spinal headaches can be treated with a blood patch. In this procedure, the patient’s own blood is injected into the spine near the area where the original procedure took place. The blood will then clot and seal the leak. Blood patches provide instant relief to patients. They are effective and minimally invasive and are considered the standard of care for spinal headaches.
Spinal headaches affect up to 40% of those who have undergone a spinal tap or epidural. If you have recently had one of these procedures, understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments for spinal headaches will ensure your health and well-being.