About spinal headaches

What is spinal headaches?

Spinal headaches are a fairly common complication in those who undergo a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) or spinal anesthesia. Both procedures require a puncture of the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord and, in the lower spine, the lumbar and sacral nerve roots.

During a spinal tap, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is withdrawn from the spinal canal. During spinal anesthesia, medication is injected into the spinal canal to numb the nerves in the lower half of the body. If spinal fluid leaks through the tiny puncture site, you may develop a spinal headache.

Most spinal headaches — also known as post-dural puncture headaches — resolve on their own with no treatment. However, severe spinal headaches lasting 24 hours or more may need treatment.



What are the symptoms for spinal headaches?

Spinal Headache symptoms include:

  • Dull, throbbing Pain that varies in intensity from mild to incapacitating
  • Pain that typically gets worse when you sit up or stand and decreases or goes away when you lie down

Spinal Headaches are often accompanied by:

  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Hearing loss
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Nausea
  • Neck stiffness

When to see a doctor

Tell your doctor if you develop a Headache after a spinal tap or spinal anesthesia — especially if the Headache gets worse when you sit up or stand.



What are the causes for spinal headaches?

Spinal headaches are caused by leakage of spinal fluid through a puncture hole in the tough membrane (dura mater) that surrounds the spinal cord. This leakage decreases the pressure exerted by the spinal fluid on the brain and spinal cord, which leads to a headache.

Spinal headaches typically appear within 48 hours after a spinal tap or spinal anesthesia.

Sometimes epidural anesthesia may lead to a spinal headache as well. Although epidural anesthetic is injected just outside the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord, a spinal headache is possible if the membrane is unintentionally punctured.



What are the treatments for spinal headaches?

The first course of treatment for spinal headaches involves supplying adequate hydration to try to increase cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) pressure. Sometimes intravenous fluids (fluids administered into the veins) are given; other times the person is advised to drink a beverage high in caffeine. Strict bed rest for 24-48 hours is also recommended.

In addition, if a person develops a spinal headache following a procedure, the anesthesiologist can create a blood patch with the person's blood to seal the leak. To administer a blood patch, the anesthesiologist inserts a needle into the same space as, or right next to, the area in which the anesthetic was injected. The doctor then takes a small amount of blood from the patient and injects it into the epidural space. The blood clots and seals the hole that caused the leak.



What are the risk factors for spinal headaches?

Risk factors for spinal headaches include:

  • Being between the ages of 18 and 30
  • Being female
  • Undergoing procedures involving the use of larger needles or multiple punctures in the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord
  • Having a small body mass
 



Is there a cure/medications for spinal headaches?

Spinal headaches resolve on their own with no treatment.

  • A spinal headache is triggered when Cerebro Spinal Fluid leaks from the spine, disturbing the fluid pressure around the brain and stretching the nerves, causing head pain.
  • Spinal headaches last from a few hours to a few days and usually require no treatment.
  • People with such headaches experience relief when lying down but the pain gets worse when sitting up or standing.


A person should consult a physician immediately after a spinal tap if -

  • Severe headache for more than 24 hours
  • If spinal headaches recur
  • Difficulty in urinating
  • Loss of feeling in the back or leg
  • The risk factors for getting this type of headache include -
  • Having a recent spinal tap done
  • Ruptured cyst on the spinal cord
  • Head, face or skull trauma
  • 18 to 30 years old
  • Pregnancy
  • Low BMI (body mass index)/underweight
  • Females are more likely to get a spinal headache


Symptoms
A persistent, dull, throbbing headache,Unilateral Headache,Headache that worsens when standing, sitting, coughing or sneezing,Neck pain,
neck stiffness,Nausea, vomiting,Dizziness,Ringing in the ears,Hearing loss,Blurred vision or double vision,Sensitivity to bright lights
Conditions
Intense dull or throbbing headache that starts in the front or back of the head,Headache pain that increases when sitting or standing,Headache pain worsens when coughing, sneezing or straining,Tinnitus
Drugs
Drugs like Gabapentin, Hydrocortisone, Theophylline and Ibuprofen,Hydration and using an IV drip help raise cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) pressure,Drinking a beverage high in caffeine e.g Coffee,Create a blood patch with the patient's blood to seal the leak,Use natural remedies like Lavender oil, Peppermint oil, and Rosemary oil to absolve pain



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