What Are Spinal Headaches & How Are They Treated?
Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 20, 2018
If you have a headache, you probably assume there is a chemical imbalance somewhere in your brain. However, one subset of headaches is actually caused by an issue in your spine. Not surprisingly, these headaches are known as spinal headaches. Below, we explain what causes spinal headaches, and we discuss their treatment options.
Causes of Spinal Headaches
There are some good things and bad things about spinal headaches. The good, for example, is that unless you’ve undergone a spinal procedure, it’s very unlikely that you’ll suffer a spinal headache. That’s because spinal headaches are caused by a spinal fluid leak in the spinal canal, and leaks usually only occur at sites where surgical procedures like a spinal tap have been performed. Unfortunately, spinal headaches are pretty common in individuals who undergo a spinal tap or spinal anesthesia. Data suggests that roughly 40 percent of people who have their spinal membrane administered for one of these procedures will develop one of more spinal headaches.
Symptoms of a spinal headache include:
- Throbbing head pain
- Pain that worsens when standing
- Sensitivity to light
- Neck stiffness
Treating Spinal Headaches
Spinal headaches can be severely debilitating, and it’s probably one of the last things you want to deal with after undergoing a spinal procedure. That being said, treating spinal headaches is often a waiting game. That’s because the vast majority of spinal headaches heal on their own within 24-48 hours. The puncture site simply needs time to heal and close, and for cerebrospinal fluid to return to normal levels.
Since most spinal headaches heal on their own, you might believe there’s not much you can do to treat the problem. That’s not necessarily true, as there are a few things you can do to help the puncture heal and prevent the onset of painful symptoms. Conservative treatment methods include staying hydrated, moderate caffeine intake, and over the counter pain relievers.
If spinal headaches don’t alleviate after a couple of days, you may need more hands-on treatment. Sometimes a patient will receive caffeine through an IV, which helps with pain relief, or they’ll receive an epidural blood patch. The blood patch helps to create a blood clot at the puncture site which can create a seal and prevent cerebrospinal fluid leaking.
MN Spine Doctor
So if you are experiencing headaches after undergoing a spinal tap or related procedure, talk to your spine specialist. They can help reduce your pain while your body patches the puncture site, or they can be more proactive in treating the problem. For more information about spinal headaches, reach out to Dr. Stefano Sinicropi’s office today.