Patient Education, Resources

Spinal Tap (aka Lumbar Puncture) to Diagnose Headache Disorders

A common headache diagnostic tool, the thought of a lumbar puncture (often called a spinal tap) may terrify you. The length of the needle used is surprising, but the procedure is not that bad. At least, it wasn’t for me and I was needle-shy at the time. Many people have shared similar experiences with me.

Why Lumbar Punctures Are Used
Lumbar punctures are used to check for an underlying condition, like meningitis, hydrocephalus or subarachnoid hemorrhage. They can’t diagnose migraine or tension-type headache, but are used to rule out other possibilities.

What the Procedure is Like
Before the needle is put in, you are given local anesthetic. The anesthetic will sting or burn initially, but you’ll be grateful for it during the next step. After the anesthetic takes effect, the needle to draw the fluid will be inserted. You’ll feel a hard pressure in your back when the needle goes in and might have a few seconds of pain as it goes through the tissue. You may feel pressure while the fluid is being drawn.

The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes, but the part where the needle is in your back only takes a few minutes.

The Dreaded Lumbar Puncture Headache
I’d be lying if I said that spinal headaches following a lumbar puncture are uncommon. However, they are usually gone within 48 hours after the procedure. They are easily treated with pain relievers, lying flat, and drinking a little caffeine and lots of water and are usually gone within 48 hours.

If the headache lasts longer than 48 hours, most doctors will recommend a blood patch. For this, blood is drawn from your arm and then injected in the lumbar region. The blood then forms a clot to seal the puncture hole.

Nearly everyone has relief after a blood patch. Because I’m so special, I became a baseball fan during the three weeks following my lumbar puncture. The odds that you’ll have the same trouble are so low that I’ll spare you the details.

Tips For Your Lumbar Puncture

  • Schedule the procedure for a Friday so you can rest over the weekend.
    If you can send the kids to stay with Grandma and Grandpa, great!
  • If you can stomach it, ask the doctor to explain each step as you go along. Knowing what to expect relieves some of the fear.
  • Have someone drive you to your appointment so you don’t have to drive home. Even if you’re not in pain, you may feel woozy or “off” from nervousness.

Learn More About Lumbar Punctures

101 thoughts on “Spinal Tap (aka Lumbar Puncture) to Diagnose Headache Disorders”

  1. Fair warning about the spinal headache. I had a lumbar puncture as part of an MS workup and about 36 hours later developed a severe, incapacitating headache along with nausea and some vomiting that lasted 3 days. OTC pain killers did not help, but it was relieved by lying down. However, this is a common side effect and I was not properly warned how incapacitating this headache could be or how long it could last. If you have a lumbar puncture just be aware this is a possibility and clear your schedule. Don’t plan on doing anything but bedrest for 3 days just in case.

  2. i had a missed epidural on the 15th November 2016 to have my daughter and since then I have had numbness on my right side which has subsided,blurred vision n double vision which has worsened, loss of some hearing and now severe extreme photophobia which no one knows how to treat😢 i have constat sparks flashes floaters static and dots i just want it gone so i can look after my kids. any suggestions? icant even stand darkness and apparently my eyes and brain are fine wtf? please help

  3. My headaches have decreased, but the pain in my back and left hip seems to be the worst every morning, I still am not able to stand for any longer than 10-15 min, then I have to sit down. It’s driving me crazy, I just want to be able to go for a walk or play with my kids

  4. I had one done November 6 2016 and almost two weeks I am having spinal headaches I have been in and out of the ER they have done nothing and my head hurts bad

  5. I have had 4 spinal taps in 2 weeks, I am in alot of pain with every step I take. I am wondering how much time is it going to take for my back to recover? Headaches yes I have plenty but I don’t even care about the headaches , my concern is with me walking again. Please can you estimate on recovery time ? Thank you

  6. I just had Spinal Tap. N I have pleasure of having both spinal headaches n back pain really bad. It not fun with either.

  7. Did anyone experience electric shocks in your foot, arm or heels or hand after the LP? I had one today and along with the hedache I get these intense shocks. It hurts for about 10mins and is at a different location each time.

  8. I had an LP on Wednesday to check for PTC. They hit a nerve down ly left leg and the whole procedure was very painful. They had trouble getting fluid and had me on my stomach and Had to tilt the table up to almost standing two or three times and then back to flat. They had me lay flat for 8 hrs and then I had a 2 hr drive home where I also lay flat and then slept for another 8 hrs. I wasn’t in much pain when I left the hospital that night but the next morning I was in terrible pain in my head and back with nerve pain in my chest and legs anytime I tried to get up or cough. That was four days ago and it’s not getting any better. The only time I feel better is laying down and even that is not comfortable due to back problems. I’m worried they damaged something when they hit that nerve or from moving me up and down! I have degenerative disc disease in my lower back which is also a concern. Any advice or suggestions would be helpful. Thank you!

  9. Had a lumbar puncture on March 7 in a public french hospital they said I might have encephalitis and die within 24 hours if I didn’t do it. Was shaking terrified. An ER Dr did it. 48 hours later they let me out I had nothing. The head stabs started 5 days later as I was walking thought was about to have a seizure. Didn’t know what was happening. My Drs abroad told me to rest in bed did so for a week low back pain and stabs up my spine but no headache Third and fourth week it goes crazy head pulling when I stand lower back under skin bump. No ER takes ne seriously Brain and spine MRI are normal.
    Been lying in bed 7 weeks now am a dancer I fear my life is ruined dropped 10 pounds was a size 6 now skeletal size 2 any move or twist or cough or sneeze or stress triggers what am sure is a csf leak burn that goes from my spine to head pain like dagger stab. Am a healthy pro dancer never sick wit’s let anyone touch my spine again with blood patch tried coffee made my head feel worse I sleep OK praying for self body recovery. Hope I have the mental courage and physical strength to overcome this. Wanna be dancing soon otherwise I’d rather die.

  10. How can i prepare for it? Like do i have to drink llots of water before my LP or it should be empty stomach? And how long does it takes? Should sit while they do that or side lying on bed? Thanks!

  11. Hi I am 19 years old female i have diabetes. My doctor told me to do the lumbar puncture because they cant detect what causes my weakness and numbness in my feet and legs. That will be next thursday. and had to rest friday saturday sunday. and had to go back to work monday. i’ve seen your comments. Was it gonna take for 1 week pain?
    Can you give me some tips or advice for preparing so do it? I am so nervous and afraid that i might end up paralyze. Waiting for yoour replies. Thank you 🙂

    1. Rose, please know that complications from a lumbar are extremely rare. This thread highlights problems that people have had, but the vast majority of people have no problems at all. The time you have planned to take off should be sufficient for recovery. If you’re still worried, call your doctor’s office and ask if a different kind of test could provide similar information. Also talk to them about your concerns and get their advice for minimizing problems from the procedure.

      Take care,

  12. Hello everyone.

    I had strep throat. The doctors did not bother to check for that. They looked at my headache and my fever and thought meningitis. They gave me a spinal tap. It was an amazingly horrible experience. The next day I had head pain that you would not believe. Crippling. I literally crawled around the house. I only moved to urinate and considered adult diapers to avoid doing that. I have a high tolerance for pain. I do not go to doctors unless I am truly worried and I do not take medication at all unless it is an antibiotic for an infection only happened twice in the last 20 years. I was 35 when I got the spinal tap and headache that followed. I read every forum and ruled out the blood patch, too many complications no thank you. I read that it took a guy 9 months to fully heal. He used some meds and some natural remedies. 9 months became my marker. How long I would wait for relief naturally. How would I withstand the pain until then? I read about a caffeine IV. I was not going back to the hospital under any circumstance, not after they botched the spinal tap. I thought what if I just went to Starbucks and got a coffee. I got a mochachino a tall one with only two shots. Not good enough huge pain still. Then I thought I would get a Venti with 4 shots. THAT DID IT! It took away the pain and made life more bearable almost instantly. I was sooo happy! I could not believe how easy it was. I had to maintain that amount of caffeine twice a day for the first two months. Then I switched to Two Leaves and a Bud green tea. 4 bags per cup for another 3 months. After that 3 bags for a while and then all the way down to two bags. I would order the tea by the case from Whole Foods. Brace yourself. It took me 3 full years for a full recovery. Recovey meaning no headaches without tea. I do not know how long it will take. The side benifits of the tea are amazing anyway. I feel so bad thinking about whoever might be suffering right now. LORD! I know how you feel. I am 39 and something just told me to tell the story so that anyone else who is suffering, knows that there is hope. Please feel free to ask me any questions. And please give it a try. IT is so worth it!

    1. Hi Erika it’s been 7 weeks for me now lying in bed I feel so desperate I won’t make it without surgery..

  13. LP on 12/30 by x ray to r/o MS
    Headache started during procedure
    Little to no relief laying flat (YES, the worst headache ever!)

    4 ER visits with only a slight relief from strong meds (mostly due to heavy drowsiness)
    1 blood patch attempt on 1/3, too painful from impatient anesthesiologist
    2nd attempt on 1/4 by ultrasound, some relief
    Anesthesiologist said the LP site was located pretty high up my back; therefore, he could not attempt that high up. He stated that it should still work a little lower.

    Head was still very sensitive to my pillow, walking around the house, sitting up etc. pain went from 10 to 6 for 3days then it was back to a 10. Not sure if it was due to new blood pressure med or being up at a doctors appointment that brought it back strong. 1/8 last ER visit. Ct scan, cervical block, IM injections…pain 10 to 8. Home
    Neurologist has put me on 2 anti seizure meds, migraine med, dizzy med. pain went down to a 6 for a couple days until i took a real shower and sat up for over an hour to pay bills. I felt it getting stronger. I rushed to lay down praying it would not be horrible. I took my meds and wished for sleep. 1/11

    1/12 laying here wondering what the day will bring. Level 6 pain. (Reason i can even look at my phone to write this)
    Tomorrow will be 2 weeks…hopefully it will just heal and this will be a memory. Thankful when it’s not at level 10!
    I could go on an on…as I didn’t mention blurry vision, back pain, neck pain, dizziness, altered thought process, arm twitching etc, because the head pain overrides everything else.
    stop taking bp med as main se is headache
    Request mri to scan for leak
    Lay down even when pain is less all week
    Research when possible
    Best wishes to everyone!

  14. I just had a lumbar puncture today for the purpose of diagnosis of MS. The headache is horrible. I told the technician and the Dr. immediately after that I was in extreme pain but the told me it would pass in an hour or so. I was given a sheet of instructions that said to contact my primary care physician if the pain worsens. I was hurried out of the lab after only recovering for 30 minutes. It is now almost 8 hours later and I can’t get comfortable standing, sitting, and definitely not laying down. My family doctor said he can’t do anything because the neuro set it up and neuro said drink lots of caffeine and you’ll be fine. I’m a teacher. I can’t teach teach school tomorrow in this kind of pain ! What do I do ?

  15. I am scheduled to have an LP on January 12, 2016 due to constant headache for 3 months and because they found that I had a mini stroke in my carotid artery for which they cannot find out why. I don’t have high cholesterol, I don’t smoke, I exercise and drink very little alcohol. From reading all of these posts I am considering canceling the LP and taking my chances. There was only one post that did not mention terrible after effects. Clearly this procedure has been terrible for those who have posted here. I feel for you and will pray for you for what good it may do. Does anyone who reads here have anything at all good to state about an LP.

  16. I had a spinal tap done on oct 26,2015 it is now dec6th. Ive had two blood patches to take care of the headaches. Still have brake through head aches. The problem i am having is i was face down on my bell during the tap. I felt a horrible pain that went down my left leg and into my left hip. Was told he hit a nerve. But then it happened again for a second time. Then as he pulled out it happened again. The amount of pain it created was horrible i am still having horrible pain in left hip and lower back to tail bone. After a total of 6 night in a hospital they find clean mris and ct scan. I have massive weakness in Left leg. How long can this last anyone out there know? And what if he went in to far? I cant get no answers from anyone not even my nero dr who by the way was not the one who did the test due to him being so far a way. Just looking for some answers or hope that this will improve.

  17. I started to have neck aches & head aches then I started having problems with my vision & my vision was blurred
    I went to a/e at hospital in Kings Lynn Norfolk they admitted me into hospital & did mri scan an cat scan blood test
    And nothing showed up so they did a lumber punch on ward which didn’t feel right it took 30 minutes 5 attempts they had to give me another local in the end I had to lay forward and sit up doctor I’m not sure if he was unlucky or just not experienced he had 5 attempts after he said in half a hour you can get up a hour later they discharged me I still had head aches blurred vision and now a very sore back
    I went back to my a relatives house
    A week later I was back in another a/e at my home town same thing again back in hospital with tests being done they had mei scan results sent from Kings Lynn and they noticed a something at top of my forehead it turned out to be sinusitis bacterial Kings Lynn didn’t notice it so gave me a lubber punch doctor seemed very apolgetic for not going to well I still have head aches 2 months later I’m not sure if it’s sinusitis I’m seeing ent and neurologist in a months time
    I regrets having lumber punch worst ever experience

  18. I went to the ER this past Sunday for ongoing intermittent pains in the left side of my head. I had been experiencing these pains for six days prior to going to the ER. There, they performed a CT scan and a MRI which both came back clean. Since I have been followed for a very small brain aneurysm for the past three years, they recommended a LP procedure to check for leakage. The ER doctor explained that some people will experience a headache for a couple of days and that there are some risks involved but very slim. Procedure went well with good test results. That was Sunday and today is the following Wednesday. I have been completely miserable ever since with the worst head pain ever, threw up twice and felt nauseous most of the time. I can barely eat and dropping weight which is not good for me. Back to the ER this evening where they gave me the 500 mg caffeine IV drip. They said that it works with most patients. This reduced the headache quite a bit. But by the time we drove home which took 45 minutes, I was feeling like crap again from sitting up on the drive home. I could have saved my ER co pay and 5 hours time by drank a couple of espressos. I wish I would have read these threads prior to the procedure, I would have never let them do it. I guess plenty of water, some caffeine and time, is what it takes to feel better I hope. The next time a Dr. Wants to perform a LP, ask them to leave you alone for a few minutes to thoroughly think it over and to see what you have planned for the next few weeks, because you probably won’t be doing anything but feeling completely miserable. Thank you for all posts, I will not be getting the epidural blood patch, instead I will wait it out.

  19. I had a spinal tap done this past Saturday in the emergency department. It took the dr less than 5 minutes to do the procedure and she had to stop and numb me further because it hurt so bad. Sunday I woke up with a horrible headache and when I stood up almost brought me to my knees. In addition my hearing in both ears has been effected. Everything sounds muffled like my ears need to pop. I was seen back in the er yesterday and they determined I have a leak and treated me with iv therapy and are waiting until Wednesday to do the blood patch. I’ve vomited a couple times today. I’m concerned about my hearing and they have no answer for me.

  20. I had a spinal tap done a week ago a found out a had a leak. They did a blood patch and i was in the hospital for a week . They gave me dhe & imitrex . Ive had plenty of epidurals to the spine in the past & i already suffer from back issues. This spinal tap left me with daily severe migranes and even more back pain. Im already taking topamax due to having fibromyalgia. ..could my life get any worse? These migraines leave me feeling even more hopeless . My neirologist swears injections to the head are next. Smh!

  21. Hi Sammy. I’m so sorry its been a rough rode for you. When a Dr doesn’t believe your pain its a terrible feeling. I’m in a very similar circumstance. Ihow would I go about ordering meds online? I would greatly love to know. My life has no quality left at all. Pain stops everything I need and want to do. My email is

  22. Hi everyone, I had a L p done with a dural tap over 25 years ago when my daughter was born , they made me lay completely flat 24/7 for 2 1/2 weeks but without success, my legs were completely numb and the headache was unbelievable,
    They sent me for a blood patch which was almost a success, but I still had a irritating headache which they said would go eventually . We’ll eventually never did happen and to this day I have suffered from debilitating headaches, pain in my left leg and a doctor who refuses to believe that I’m in pain every day, I’ve tried every over the counter painkiller, anti migraine drugs which I’m still taking , but still he refuses to prescribe a pain relief that’s strong enough to let me have a normal life ,he keeps saying he can’t prescribe anything because it’s to addictive,
    So now without his knowledge I have to order tablets from the internet at a cost of probably £150 per month , I’ve had to endure this for 25 or so years but I can’t seem to make people believe me that a dural tap with treatment is not the end , I never suffered before from headaches but have suffered every day since. Sammy

  23. I had 3 spinal taps within a few months & was diagnosed with psuedo tumor seribri. This happened 2012-2013. The doctors never knew why i was having such bad migranes. My mom finally figured out it was from an antibiotic i was taking for acne. I still to this day have bad lower back pain From the spinal taps. Anyone else? Help.

  24. Hey Bethany hope your headache is fine?
    I m recently dignosed with post dural puncture headache, and it took 3months for the neurologists to diagnose as no one thought that epidural headche could occur this late. Now i have failed conservative mnagement n ready for blood patch but my neurologist also asked to have mrv (my cat scan, mri with contrast, mra all normal)
    My question is, should i get mrv first or the blood ptch? My insurance isnt allowing mrv cuz i just had mra, plus m scared that if i really have superior sagital sinus thrombosis the blood would worsen my case, so terrified, help? Headache is unbearable n since morning im having severe backache n tenderness at the point where i was given epidural 6months back

    1. Sana, have you contacted your neurologist’s office about the insurance company’s MRV denial? I’m unable to advise you on the benefits of the MRV vs. blood patch, but it may be a moot point if your insurance won’t cover the MRV anyway. I wish you the best of luck in finding relief.

      Take care,

  25. I went to the er on 12/30 for the worst headache (what i thought was the worst headache) of my life (so bad I was puking) had a ct scan and LP done. Left the hospital around 730 am on 12/31 and at noon my head started pounding, like it was going to explode. I sucked it up and just laid down all night at 6 in the morning on 1/1 I couldn’t take it anymore I was screaming in pain, I couldnt move I just wanted to die. Get there wait 2 hours in my room in pain for meds then they tell me my headache is from the flu (wrong) had a blood patch done on 1/2 which was cake. Didn’t hurt a bit, it helped for about 30 mins. Now it’s Saturday and I’m laying in bed with my head pounding and I just want to no why and when will it stop. In over this

  26. Hello, just had Lp done yesterday…had it done buy a neurlogist who trains other doctors on how to do lumbar puntures I havent had a headache at all! Some back pain that seems to be easing up. I think what helped me was that my doctor gave me tylenol#3 s ,with caffine in it, they have 15mg of caffine+30mg of codine. Ask for them they really helped me. Oh and you have 3days bed rest so your body has a chance to heal. Good luck and God bless!

  27. In 1985 I was diagnosed with Pseudo Tumor Cerebi. For years this would be my battle. I would go in for the LP which isn’t always a smooth procedure.
    Also having Ehlers Danlos makes it hard to numb me. So that has been an experience and a half. I am one of those lucky ones that leaks. After figuring out they needed to do a blood patch with the last one I. 2010 they struggled with needles etc. however, recovery time was faster like a week a to without it was like 2 weeks to almost month. I get neck pain, lower back pain, and the lovely spinal headache. I just went in last week on Thursday, for another LP and it went smoothly. They are looking to see if I have anything that is tagging along with my PTC like MS or Anthing drastic. As well as read my open and closed pressure. I was impressed; how well this doctor did I have never had one go so well. To her I give props!
    Well, Friday night BAM! Here comes the pain. So I am sending this from the flat of my back in my room. My PTC is out of Remission and it is mad at me; I am hoping that the pain will subside and we can go back to our regularly scheduled program called Life.

  28. I had a lumbar puncture a week ago my spine has a curve they had to do it in the er it took nearly 15 stabs before the fiber was hit. Now I have bad back pain I can’t eat the meds they gave me only worked temporary. I’m still sick feeling and can now eat certain things due to massive throwing up . The pain is almost unbearable.

  29. Hi. My 4 year old has also had a LP 9 days ago. And she is still battling with headache above her eyes. Is this normal? And what should I do???

    1. Kim,

      Call the doctor. They may be able to do something called a blood patch to relieve the headache. They go away with time (mine took three weeks), but a blood patch can speed it along. I wish you and your daughter the best of luck.


  30. I had a spinal tap 5 days ago. I remain in bed still with this terrible headache.. I seen my neurologist again on the 4 th day and he didn’t want to do a blood patch yet. Instead he gave me some caffeine pills,antibotics,and steroids.. He seems to think this may help get me well. Yesterday the caffeine pills helped my headache some.. Before, my headache pain would go away when I lie down. But today one side of my head hurts even when I lie down . No one told me the after effects of this.. I had to have it done b/c I had so much fluid around my brain it was causing blindness and they said I might suffer a stroke if I don’t get the pressure released. My question is, can your head still hurt while lying down flat?? This is the first day I have experienced this. Of course it’s Saturday and the dr isn’t in to call him.. Please help!!

  31. Hi had lp done 3am monday mornin to rule out bleeding on brain due to family history. It went brilliantly didnt feel a thing was told to lie for 4hrs but ended up lying for 5as a doc didnt come to see me untill then. Ive had unbelievable headaches since and cant sit up without feeling like being punched either side of head.. Dont have time to be lying down (only way of pain goin) as have 2babys that neef there mammy. .

    If the headache hasn’t let up, be sure to let your doctor know. He or she can do a blood patch, where they draw blood from your arm and inject it in the lumbar area, which usually takes care of post-spinal tap headaches.

    I wish you the best!


  32. I had three LP’s about two weeks ago to test for a brain hemorrhage. The first two were in the ER and were not CT guided. I have never experienced more pain in my life. The first one, they tried for about 15 minutes and could not get any fluid. It was so painful they stopped and gave me morphine and anti-nausea medicine. They went in a second time shortly after that and tried for 45 minutes and still could not find any fluid. Even with the morphine, it was extremely painful. I spent 5 days in the hospital while they ran a bunch of other tests only to finally decide to try an LP one last time. This one was CT guided, and before the procedure they gave me pain and anti-nausea meds. It hurt a little bit, but the pain was almost negligible. The first two I had a ton of electric shocks all over my body. The CT guided, I only had one electric jolt down my left leg and it wasn’t that bad.

    If you have to have an LP, insist on having a CT guided LP and insist on getting valium, or a some sort of pain killer before the procedure.

    Also, after the first two LPs the doctor told me that I only had to lay flat for 1 hour. The last time, my doctor insisted that I lay flat for 24-48 hours. You are more at risk for headache and spinal leakage if you do not lay flat for 24-48 hours.

    Now, it has been two weeks later and I have been suffering from debilitating headaches and back pain. The only thing that helps the headaches is laying flat on my back and not moving. I am about to call my doctor for a blood patch.

  33. I recently had several LP’s one after the other in an attempt to draw some fluid. All attempts failed and I am now left with an aweful headache and back ache. Its been 3 days since I have had the failed procedure and there seems to be no releif from the pain in sight. The procedure itself was horrible everytime the needle was inserted I felt it all the way to the core. Very nasty do it only if you really need it.

  34. I’ve been reading all of these posts and wanted to add something… If you have disk degeneration in your spine, only let an experienced anesthesiologist perform the procedure! I had a spinal tap a couple days ago and the ER doctor kept trying to dig the needle into my lower spine where the degeneration is but because there was no space between the disks he kept digging the needle into the nerves… he kept repeatedly trying until the nurse actually begged him to stop because I was screaming in so much pain. The anesthesiologist who performed it later told me that he should have never tried to do the procedure on me because of my back problems and he ended up doing more damage than good. I have been in nothing but complete agony since, not even being able to get out of bed because of the horrendous back pain and the spinal headache that feels as if someone is putting an ax through your head if you even so much as try and sit. The blood patch did not work, but I was wondering if anybody knew of something else that may relieve these god-aweful headaches?

  35. Hey everyone…i just had a lumbar puncture today 12 /2/2011…i passed out when they tried to do it on halloween…i took valium this morning which didnt seem to work..i also have a really bad anxiety disorder…my dr. Told me that it was medically necessary to have this lp due to high intracranial pressure…rule out ptc…the procedure wasnt too bad…they did it under fluroscopy (xray) so they would know exactly where to stick me..i thought i was going to throw up the further the needle went in and i had the worse hot flash attack…the nurse fanned me…thanx cindy…i have been home on my back for 12 hours now because im scared of that dreadful headache and throwing up people talking about…yuck..i feel okay so far and im praying that i dont get it…im drinking plenty of water and my kids are looking after me…i guess everyone reacts differently to this procedure so just because someone had a bad experience doesnt mean everyone will…stay positive…and we cant play with our brain..u only get 1

  36. All I can say is I had a spinal tap done 5with days ago to get the worst headache and back spasms I have ever experienced and 2u days later had to have the blood patch now two days after the patch the headache is back so I would never so this again and wouldn’t tell anyone else to do it either

  37. My sister has an LP 18 days ago and she is still having to lie flat on her back, if she gets up more than 45 minutes she get a horrible headache! Anyone else experience this??

  38. I went to see the eye doctor 2 days ago because I had been having blurred vision and dizziness when I would stand up. When I got there they told me that my optical nerves were swollen and got me in to see a neurologist within the hour. He then ordered an MRI and an MRV. The MRI came out that I have a possible PTC.Which they think is so crazy because I am thin and very healthy. I had a LP today at 1 and am on bedrest for the remainder of the day. I am so nervous that I am going to get this headache that everyone is talking about. I leave for vacation in a week from today and I just really want to have a good time. Is there anything that I can do now to prevent this??

  39. I had lp two days ago in er for the mother of all migraines after CT came back normal. I was told by the nurse you need to lie flat for about 30 minutes. This was the extent of my post lp instruction. I now have the worst backache you could imagine and a 6 month old to care for. How can I give her the care she deserves when I can’t sleep because of the back pain and don’t even want to move enough to shower. Why didn’t the MD tell me any of this could happen?

  40. My partner just had a LP at the ER four nights ago to rule out a brain bleed for her high blood pressure. She has had a headache ever since with a stiff neck.

    She’s lied flat, been drinking lots of caffeine. She can barely get out of bed now. After reading all of these posts, we now regret having this procedure done.

    Wish I would have read these posts while sitting in the ER instead of reading about how the procedure is performed. Plllffft………

  41. my 7 year old was seen in the er for headaches and neck pain and fever they did a spinaltap to rule out meningitis and it was however she has horrible migranes 4 days now and doctors keep saying to give her tyylenol motrin does anyone have any experience on this??

    1. She needs a patch. Post on FB so other mom’s won’t fall for the same doctor’s trick!!! Meningitis is ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED WITH A FEVER!!!!! Docs love to do spinal taps ~ they make big $$$$ and it is easy and fast they don’t care about the consequences and pain of your child!!!!!!

  42. I had a LP about a year ago, I still have lower back pain. Resting doesn’t help. Nor does laying down, every breath while laying down hurts, i get pain in my legs after sitting down or standing in a short time. my neck starts to hurt after sitting down in a short time. i cant push or pull anything to heavy or my back just screams. The Doc said its probably just strained your back but it should get better with time he told me that 7 months ago it seems like it getting worse. now my stool is green and its been so for about a week or so. any help would be appreciated.. Rick

  43. agree with #27 and #28 completely not worth it! Idiot ER doctor did mine without letting me know of any consequences or to rest after the procedure, exams in a week can not even get up and my last seven days have consisted of puking when standing, headaches, back pain, painkillers, and losing weight!I would gladly chop that docs nuts off!


    1. Hi. Do you have IIH or pseudotumor cerebri? Headaches are ruining my career too. I got the spinal tap today and they found high pressure. Im going for my 3rd week off work. I had random migraines and then one so bad I couldnt move for 3 days. Now Im on medication and hope it works.

  45. I had a spinal tap back in June of 2010 my life did a complete 180 The doctor assured me I would be able to go to work the next day LIAR I had to quit my job of thirteen years,my internship and school I am in extreme pain ever since I have burning pain in my spine,arms,legs,eyes,head,I am a complete mess I am talking to a great lawyer to press charges on this doctor it was done in the Er and he wasnt even a nuerologist he was an ER doctor I will get my revenge Please I warn everyone out there DO NOT DO IT IT WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE

  46. I just got an LP done, and it took me five days to be on my feet again. I would collapse or throw up if I tried to even sit.

    Got the mother of all headaches and worse nausea. Need to drink a LOT of water and stay flat in bed. The tylenol and motrin are useless–skip if you can. They could give you ulcers, I learned from my radiologist.

    Absolutely the best thing you can do, is to not to get out of bed and guzzle water. It helps to make the CS fluid (the stuff they took out of your spine) quickly.

    I went through two jugs on the fourth day out of total despair, but it worked! Get up only to go to the bathroom–you’ll need to if you drink so much water.

    If you can, keep your fluid intake really high before the LP. 30% of the patients get the headache and nausea. I wish I had known.

  47. Recently had a spinal tap 2 weeks ago, honestly men and women out there, if you had an option to not do a spinal tap don’t do it! The headaches are excruciating! After 2 weeks like a vegetable in bed it finally went away naturally with painkillers to help, these are the 2 painkillers prescribed to me and really works! Percocet and naproxen, oh don’t forget anything with caffeine aids the headache, especially coffee tea or coca cola. Sometimes these doctors really bullshyt you and say everything will be healed in a couple of hours. Unless your jobless and on welfare with a wife or whoever living with you, take as many spinal taps u like, unlike me who has a family to take care of and a job I nearly lost because of the headache this will be my first and last time doing a spinal tap! Because I was too uneducated in the spinal tap after effects, my life nearly got fked over! Thank god I’m fine, pheww! Oh and the blood patch rate is only 60%, Soo I denied tht knowing it can cause more damage.

  48. I had a spinal tap done two days ago. The ER doc tried it first and couldn’t get any fluid. He tried 2-3 different spots and then they finally sent me to radiology to have it done there. That was much easier, didn’t hurt nearly has much and I was much more relaxed. The ones that were done in the ER I have a really sore back from. I also have a killer spinal headache. Being a single mom though staying on your back is nearly impossible. I just want this headache to go away I have school to go to in a couple of days and homework to get done. I dread going back to the ER it always seems like doctors don’t take me seriously. I went in for migraines, and my CT came back normal, the ER doc didn’t want to do the tap but I had a lot of the same symptoms a friend of mine had that just had an anuerysm and almost died cause they missed it on her ct scans for years. So I did the tap. That came back normal too now I wait to see my neurologists to see if she can find out what is causing my headaches.

    1. Liz, did they ever find out what was going on? I have the same exact thing happening right now. My spinal tap came back clear but I’ve had terrible constant headache with pressure and ringing.

  49. I went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,MN to have them test me. I have a speech disorder. Which is called Dysarthria. I had a spinal tap done before,but this time around it was very painful. I had the worse headache that you could ever imagine in life. And now after three weeks I’m having severe leg pains.It seems to stem from my back all the way down to my right leg. I went to the dr when I got home she had me take another MRI done and now she tells me that there is a tear in my spine. It wasn’t there before the procedures of my spinal tap done at the Mayo Clinic. I too feel like Julie who said that they have no experience the are just experimenting on you. And you put your life in these dr’s hand for the outcome to cause more pain that before you went in. I wonder if I were RICH would they have done the same.

  50. I am going into have a LP done in the morning to rule out PTC (pseudo-tumor cerebri). I have had a daily migraine for the last 15 years. I currently have one and I have to have the LP in the morning. I am afraid also getting a spinal migraine when I already have a migraine. I am not looking forward to that part.


  52. The level of the technologist’s experience makes ALL the diference, as it does with everything.

    Have had 4 spinal taps – the first two went without a hitch. The third gave me a spinal headache that lasted almost 2 weeks. I had to lie down – like everyone else. It just depends on the skill of the person doing it, I think. You just don’t want any leakage. I knew that the third would be bad because they used an intern who took FOREVER to properly place the needle. The other times were done by MDs who had tons of experience. You figure it out. Now I will be very specific when I ask: How many of these have you done? And I would not beashamed or fear “hurting anyone’s feelings” if they have no experience. SPeak up it’s your health!!!

  53. I was dx with PTC and Arnold Chiari in 2007. I have been fit and healthy all of my life and so I don’t fit the typical middle age, child bearing years, over weight patient associated with PTC. Since 2007, I have lost track of how many lumbar taps I have had done, over 30 I believe. Just had one recently and my pressure was over 600. I have two VP shunts and have had to have numerous revisions since 2007. I live with daily headaches that are excruciating and very debilitating. I had to file for disability and left my wonderful career behind because of my condition. Now I have to have decompression surgery for my Arnold Chiari. This is when the brain stem becomes herniated through the opening in the skull. So for me, LPs are nothing compared to all that I have already endured! Sad, there is no cure for this, no amazing fund raising events or foundations that pour millions of money into research. The condition is listed as a rare disorder in the NIH website. Doctors are inexperienced and have very little knowledge on how to even treat the symptoms.

  54. I had a spinal done 3 months ago to test for psuedo-tunor, now I have to have another done because the doctor read the first 1 wrong!! He read a 0 pressure and my nuero says this is IMPOSSIBLE!! I did have a terrible headache for about 18 hours and a backache for a few days but all in all(except for the flub-up) it was’nt that bad!

  55. I had a spinal tap 6 days ago and still have a severe lumbar backache which radiates down my thigh.
    Prior to the spinal tap, I experienced sciatica when walking, but the pain never kept me awake as this does. It is better when I lie down.
    Given the good advice from writers above, I will “lie low” until I can reach my internist tomorrow.
    I wasn’t aware of the actual procedure (having finally been diagnosed with transient global amnesia). It would have been helpful if the medical staff had inquired about my backache prior to discharge. At first I thought the backache was due to lying in a hard hospital bed
    but became concerned as the ache seemed to worsen and awakened me in the middle of the night.

  56. My daughter had a spinal tap and she said it hurt terribly…She cried and screamed.I don’t think her doctor gave the numbing agent enough time to work. She is 18 and I am 49 and I wouldn’t get one of those, they would have to knock me out.

  57. I had a spinal tap last wednesday, it was not painful to have done, but i did get the spinal headache and returned on friday for a blood patch, it is now Wednesday of the next week and I am having nausia, can’t keep food down. I’m very weak, and tired. Triing to drink lots of water and rest..and eat… Wondering how long this is going to last…?

  58. i just had a spinal tap done two days ago and am in so much pain with my back that seems to be getting worse and even have pain goin down my left leg and through my foot this is horrible i already had the migraine or whatever before they did it and that was their reason for doing it and i felt bad pain during the procedure was i not supposed to be in horrible pain?

    1. Do you have headaches today? 2015? Because my daughter is in great pain with headaches ~ I am doing some research for her.

  59. In the summer of 2007 I had a Spinal Tap performed to rule out MS or infection…It was the WORST headache AND back ache I have ever experienced! I immediately went home but for 5 to 7 days after that I had the dreaded headache and back pain. I hate to sound crazy, but each day the back pain would creep further and further up my spine. Its hard to explain, it was like one day the pain would be in my lower back, then the next day it moved to my middle back, and so on and so on. Horrible! I had a internship in NY that began the monday after my procedure…and lets just say I didn’t make a good first impression! Once I explained to my boss what was going on she sent me home to lay down for the rest of the week!
    So glad its over with….god bless whoever has to get one, I feel for you.

    1. Hey how long did you have the back ache for? I just had the lumbar puncture done about 3 days ago and last night I started to get back pain and it is moving up my back and it’s bad. With that being said the headaches are SLOWLY getting better.

  60. I have had several punctures, and my neurologist now prescribes a blood patch with the puncture as one procedure to avoid the need to go back for the patch. I am surprised to read about people saying it was not very painful, mine have all hurt like crazy, especially the last two when they hit a nerve and I felt like I was electrocuted all the way to my toes and dread the thought of another one. My first couple had high opening pressures, so I have been diagnosed with pseudo-tumor cerebrei. There does not seem to be a good prognosis for this, they try to manage the pain, but I have a headache every minute of every day. I would (and have done most) anything that might work. My doc wants to do a shunt, but that is scary. I am on them about trying the occipital nerve stimulator as I have heard this helps. I do know that cranial sacral therapy and traction do help some, but get expensive. My husband tries to do the traction by gently pulling up using the occiputs as a place to dig his fingers in to pull upwards (traction) and that tends to help a little till his hands get sore.

    1. I have a cervical traction device by Saunders Series #8071094 it is a God send. Your doctor should be able to write a Rx for one so your insurance will pay.

      They usually do a tap to see is you have the pseudotumor. Which just means you have headaches which mimic a tumor…. in other words the Docs know nothing and are making up stuff!!!!

      It is now 2015 I hope your headaches are gone, I will pray for you!

  61. I just had a lumbar puncture done yesterday. Let me say this. I HATE needles! That being said, the procedure was no sweat.

    I lied down on my belly and the doctor took an X-Ray of my lumbar area to look for a possible injection site.

    Then they mark the area on your back where they are going to insert the needle and apply Betadine to clean the skin.

    The puncture site is numbed with Lidocaine first. Lidocaine burns a bit when it is injected, but the burning lasts less than 10 seconds. Almost immediately you can feel a numbness spread around the area as your muscles absorb the drug. It’s a pretty neat sensation actually.

    After that the needle is inserted through your skin and muscle, between your vertebrae, and into the dura to extract the CSF. This procedure is absolutely painless. I am a big wuss, so when I say painless, I mean it. I felt NOTHING during the entire procedure.

    My procedure took about an hour because, for some reason, my CSF just trickled out.

    When the doctor was satisfied with the amount, the needle was withdrawn and he put a band-aid over the injection site. Absolutely painless.

  62. I was diagnosed with swine flu in 1971, I was 21 yrs. after having a spinal tap, diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Lindry Syndrome, recovery was 9 months, suffered massive headaches for 3 yrs. thereafter, then diagnosed again as meningitis, headaches lessened only when lying in bed, got released onto emergency flight, diagnosed again for spinal headaches, the blood patch worked. It is now 2008, Mother of 3 and Grandmother of 5. This is m story.

    1. Please tell me: you got your blood patch 3 years after the tap? Because my daughter is going on 12 years of severe headache after tap! No help in sight!

      1. Kathryn, I got the blood patch a few days after the LP and the headache from that lasted three weeks. I’ve never heard of an LP-induced headache that lasted for years. I would guess that she has a headache disorder that was perhaps triggered or exacerbated by the LP. Have you taken her to a neurologist or headache specialist? Trying to understand what the diagnosis is now (no matter how it started) is the first step to treating it. I wish you and your daughter the best of luck.

        Take care,

      2. Kathryn- I had a lumbar puncture about 6 years ago and ended up having a blood patch due to spinal headaches. Fast forward to October 2014 and I had a headache that was the longest and one of the most severe headaches I have ever had, and I’ve had migraines for a little over 20 years, I’m 37 now. It never occurred to me in October to associate this with the spinal headache from 6 years ago. But today I had another freight train of a headache that started mid day and quickly escalated to nausea and light sensitivity and then boom there it was… my head felt and feels so much better when I lay down. Food also makes me queasy even though I have an appetite I take a few bites and then feel like I am going to get sick. I cannot find any information on spinal headaches reoccurring so many years later. Or maybe I have had spinal headaches in the past but didn’t realize it. I would love to hear your daughter’s story. It’s good to know what my potential problem may be.

        1. Christin A – have you looked into the possibility that you may have a csf spinal leak? Your symptoms all seem to match up.

        2. Have you found out what is causing you these headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light. My daughter had to go through three lumbar patches because of two blood patch failures and she has head pain, nausea, light sensitivity and queasiness after eating a light meal. We too are still trying to find answers. She said she feels a lot of pressure on her brain and pain in the back of he neck.

  63. Laura – You might want to post your question in the forum part of the site. People with this experience are more likely to be able to find your question there than here in the comments. I sure hope your daughter’s spinal headache clears soon! I had one after an epidural, but mine only lasted a few hours. Good luck!
    – Megan

  64. My daughter had a spinal this past Monday to check for psuedo tumor cerebri. On a good note, she does not have it. On a bad note, she does have the horrible spinal headache. Two days of hydrocodone afterwards and she was incapacitated with the pain and had to taken to the ER. They did a blood patch, but now a little over 24 hours after the patch she is still in terrible pain. The patch helped some of her back pain issues, but the headaches are still uncontrollable even with oxycodone this time round. The neuro suggests just waiting it out, but I’m sitting her with a child who is crying in night almost 24/7 and don’t know if I should take her back to the ER. Can any of you give me an idea how long this took to heal on its own for you?

    1. I am researching Spinal Tap headaches and damages. Would you be will to answer: does your daughter still have headaches today 2015 January? This is 7 years after.

  65. I had an epidural injection 3 wks ago, back ache from that no headache. 3 days ago had a mylerogram done (injected dye in the spine) wow I got the spinal headache and the back ache. Yesterday had to go to the er for the blood patch and IV of caffine. It worked, but didn’t take it 100% away. My back is hurting and my head is feeling better. I’ll take the back pain over the headache.

  66. Thankfully, I escaped the headache after my LP but I have a harsh backache that’s getting worse…

    There’s varying info on the ‘net about having a warm bath, due to the puncture site becoming infected. Is this safe?

    Also, at what point should I seek medical attention?


    I’m not sure about the warm bath. I’d definitely contact your doctor ASAP.


  67. I had a spinal 2 weeks agot today to determine whether I had MS or Guillian- Barre Syndrome (thankfully its was GBS!). Anyways, got the most terrible spinal headache afterwards that was only barely lessened by the patch. the headache is finally gone after 2 weeks and more percocet than I’d like to admit, but it does go away. Let me tell you, i would take the backache over the headache any day!!!

  68. Approximately one in four patients develop a spinal headache. The risk of developing a headache can be reduced by using either a thinner needle or a needle with a rounded tip. However, thinner needle does not give accurate prssure measurement which is needed to diagnose intracranial hypertension.

    Thanks for the information. It’s good to know the trade-offs.


  69. I was surprised at not seeing PTC or IH (pseudo-tumor cerebri or intracranial hypertension) mentioned.

    My 3 LPs were to determine if my head pain was attributed to IH, which is characterized by a high level of cerebral spinal fluid pressure. The only way to diagnose this is via an LP.

    My LPs were uneventful. I did feel pressure but no pain. I did not experience spinal headache nor a back ache afterwards.I now take a CSF diuretic to combat my slightly high CSF pressure.

    Thanks for pointing out pseudo-tumor cerebri or intracranial hypertension. They skipped my mind, but are so important for this topic. They certainly deserve attention in their own right, too.


  70. I had 4 spinal taps in 6 months last year. Never did I get the dreaded “spinal tap headache.” Instead I got a severe backache after each tap. Each backache lasted about a week. Would I trade the backache for the headache? I don’t know. The backache was no fun and the only remedy was time.

    Four in six months??? The backache sounds horrible.

    Time is such a frustrating remedy. 🙂


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