What is a spinal headache?

Spinal headache is head discomfort caused by a leak of cerebrospinal fluid cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), which surrounds the brain and spinal cord. Cerebrospinal fluid protects the brain and spinal cord and helps eliminate waste. If the cerebrospinal fluid gets too low, it can cause the pressure around the brain and spinal cord to decrease, causing pain.

This article provides an overview of spinal headaches, the procedures that cause them, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment.

Procedures That Cause Spinal Headaches

The most common cause of spinal headaches is a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap.A lumbar puncture is a procedure that requires the insertion of a needle into the spine to extract CSF or provide anaesthetization.

The most common reason a person needs a lumbar puncture is to test the CSF for disease or acceptance epidural (anaesthesia) childbirth.

Other conditions that can cause CSF to leak include head or face injuries, or ruptured spinal cord cysts.

symptom

Typical symptoms of spinal headaches are:

  • tight head pain, especially in the front of the head
  • Headache that gets worse when sitting or standing
  • stiff neck
  • hearing loss
  • sensitive to light
  • nausea or vomiting
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risk factor

Factors that may put someone at a higher risk of developing a spinal headache include:

  • as a woman
  • younger
  • pregnant
  • low body mass index (BMI)
  • Multiple lumbar punctures
  • Past history of chronic headache

Before having a lumbar puncture or spinal anesthesia, it’s important to identify risk factors with your healthcare provider so the healthcare provider can be prepared.

untreated spinal headache

If left untreated, spinal headaches can lead to serious complications, such as bleeding in the brain, seizures, or infection.

treat

In some cases, spinal headaches can be treated with nonsurgical methods, including:

  • Lie down and rest
  • drink water or receive IV (intravenous) hydration
  • drink caffeine
  • Steroid

Medications may also help treat spinal headaches, including:

  • anti-nausea medications, such as Zoffran (ondansetron)
  • Ginger for Nausea
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen)
  • opioid analgesics

Some patients with spinal headaches may also find relief with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies, such as acupuncture or visualization techniques.

Patients sometimes use a combination of the above treatments for the best pain relief.

blood patch for spinal headache

If a spinal headache lasts more than a day or two, your healthcare provider may recommend an epidural blood patch (EBP).

The procedure involves injecting a small amount of the patient’s own blood into the space where the cerebrospinal fluid leak is. This process may help seal leaks, normalize cerebrospinal pressure and eliminate headaches.

generalize

Spinal headaches are caused by a leak of cerebrospinal fluid, a protective fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The most common cause of spinal headaches is a lumbar puncture (spinal tap). Common symptoms include headache, neck stiffness, hearing loss, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting. Fortunately, there are many treatments for spinal headaches, including epidural blood patch procedures.

VigorTip words

Spinal headaches can be very painful. If you’ve been through it once, you may feel overwhelmed and desperate for relief. Fortunately, there are treatments available, even for persistent spinal headaches. If you can’t find relief, talk with your healthcare provider about pain relief medication options or an epidural blood patch procedure.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When would a healthcare provider recommend a blood patch for spinal headache?

    Your healthcare provider may recommend an epidural blood patch (EBP) if a spinal cord headache caused by a leak of cerebrospinal fluid persists for more than a day or two and is unresponsive to conservative pain relief regimens.

  • How can pregnant women avoid epidural headaches?

    Epidurals can increase your risk of developing spinal headaches. If you have a spinal headache, your healthcare provider may recommend that you drink plenty of fluids (especially those with caffeine), lie down, and take ibuprofen or other pain relievers.

    If you have risk factors (such as younger age, low BMI, or a history of chronic headaches), talk to your provider so staff can prepare for spinal headaches in advance.

  • Do Spinal Headaches Have Long-Term Effects?

    If left untreated, spinal headaches can lead to serious complications, such as bleeding in the brain, seizures, or infection.