Spinal headaches are the result of low spinal fluid pressure. Spinal fluid is a liquid that acts as a protective cushion for the brain and spinal cord. The brain is supported by this fluid in a bag-like membrane inside the skull.
Spinal headaches occur when small amounts of spinal fluid leak out of this membrane or out of the spinal cord.
Approximately 40 percent of people who undergo either a spinal tap or spinal anesthesia experience this type of headache, according to the Mayo Clinic. They are more common if the treatment needle accidentally nicks the covering of the spinal cord.
Although most spinal headaches occur after a spine puncture, they can also develop from no recognizable cause. Sometimes such ache can result from a violent sneeze or cough, or other minor trauma to the neck or back.
Beware of symptoms such as:
• Dull throbbing pain that can vary from mild to excruciating.
• Headache that gets worse when sitting or standing and improves when lying down.
• Headache that gets worse the longer you are upright or out of bed.
Spinal headaches may also be accompanied by neck pain, nausea, dizziness, ringing in the ears or sensitivity to light.
Mostly they occur within 48 hours after a spinal treatment, but sometimes can take up to five days to develop.
These headaches can go away on their own within 24 hours. If lasting longer than 24 hours ache may require treatment to help seal the leak the restore normal spinal fluid pressure.
Treatment typically begins with bed rest, plenty of fluids to make sure you are well-hydrated, caffeine to constrict blood vessels in your head, and pain relievers.
If it does not go away, your doctor may perform an epidural blood patch. During this procedure, a vial of your own blood is drawn and then injected into your spinal fluid. The goal is to create a small blood clot that will patch the hole and prevent more spinal fluid from leaking out. Once the leak is sealed, spinal fluid pressure will return to normal and the headache will go away.