Spinal headaches can occur as a result of a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) or spinal anesthesia (epidural block). In these procedures, a puncture of the tough membrane that surrounds the spinal cord in the lower spine, the lumbar and sacral nerve roots, is made.
During a spinal tap, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid is withdrawn from the spinal canal and medication is injected into the spinal canal to numb the nerves in the lower half of the body. This creates a passage for the spinal fluid to leak out, changing the fluid pressure around the brain and the spinal cord. If enough of the fluid leaks out, a spinal headache may develop.
Spinal headaches may occur up to five days after the procedure is performed and usually resolve on their own with no treatment. However, those headaches lasting 24 hours or more may need treatment.
Spinal headache symptoms include:
- Dull, throbbing pain
- Pain that increases when the person is in an upright position and improves when the person lies down
- Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
- Light sensitivity (photophobia)
- Neck stiffness
Spinal headaches are caused by leakage of spinal fluid through a hole in the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord. This leakage changes the pressure on the brain and spinal cord, which leads to a headache.
Risk factors for spinal headaches include:
- Undergoing procedures involving the use of larger needles or multiple punctures in the membrane that surrounds the spinal cord
- Being between the ages of 18 and 30
- Having a history of spinal headaches
- Being a woman