Spinal Headaches: What Are They, And How Do I Manage Them?

Severe headaches can be debilitating, often affecting every aspect of one’s life. It is important to know the origin of your headache so that you can be appropriately diagnosed and treated. You may think you are experiencing a cluster headache or a tension headache when in reality it is something else entirely. When determining the cause of any headache, there are certain signs and symptoms that you need to be aware of. These signs may indicate that the origin of your pain is not actually the head itself. In some cases, your headache may be originating from other areas, such as your spine, for example. If you’ve received a spinal tap or spinal anesthesia recently and are dealing with intense head pain, it is likely that what you are experiencing is a spinal headache.

What is a Spinal Headache?

A spinal headache is a complication that can result from spinal anesthesia or a spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture. The majority of these procedures are performed during labor and delivery to numb the patient and relieve birthing pains. 

Both spinal anesthesia and spinal tap procedures puncture the tough membrane surrounding the spinal cord and the lumbar and sacral nerve roots. The puncture works to change the fluid pressure around the brain and spinal cord, essentially allowing a passageway for spinal fluid to leak out. If too much spinal fluid leaks through this puncture site, spinal headaches—sometimes called post-lumbar or post-dural puncture headaches—may occur. 

The risk of this complication has been minimized recently with the improvement of spinal needle designs, but can still occur in a number of patients.

Spinal Headache Symptoms

Spinal headaches can vary in intensity, ranging from mild to completely debilitating. Patients with spinal headaches may experience a dull, throbbing pain or one that is completely incapacitating and interferes with their normal function and everyday activities. You may notice the pain grows significantly worse when sitting or standing up versus when lying down. This is one of the telltale signs of a spinal headache.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Hearing loss
  • Blurred, distorted, or double vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Neck pain or stiffness

In very severe cases, seizures may also occur.

Will Spinal Headaches Go Away?

Most cases of spinal headaches typically resolve themselves without the need for treatment. However, there are cases where treatment may be required if the headache does not go away on its own.

How Long Does a Spinal Headache Last?

The symptoms of a spinal headache usually present themselves within two to three days following the procedure. Symptoms immediately following the procedure are rare, as are symptoms that manifest five or more days postop. Most spinal headaches last for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. It is possible that the headache may last for as long as a few weeks. If the headache does not resolve itself within a few days, you may need to seek treatment.

How to Get Rid of a Spinal Headache?

There are some ways in which you might resolve a spinal headache on your own. For example, drinking beverages high in caffeine may work to relieve the pain. Your doctor may also recommend you take it easy for a couple of days. 24-48 hours of bed rest may be enough to resolve the headache. Pain medication is also helpful in eliminating spinal headache symptoms.

Spinal Headache Treatments

If other at-home methods don’t work, you may need to schedule a visit with one of our doctors at The Pain Relief Center. Your doctor may choose to insert intravenous fluids, or an IV, to help raise your cerebral spinal fluid. 

Your doctor may also choose to use a blood patch to remedy your spinal headache. This minimally invasive procedure essentially works by creating a patch with your blood to seal the leak that is causing the headaches. With this method, your doctor will insert a needle into the relative area where the anesthetic was originally injected. By taking a small amount of blood and inserting it into the epidural space, blood clots will form and seal the hole that is causing the leak, helping to equilibrate intracranial pressure. 

If you feel that your spinal headache is disrupting your life and will not resolve on its own, fill out the short consultation form found on The Pain Relief Center website or give us a call at 214-709-1904 today.

More Conditions


The most critical step on the path to recovery is finding a pain management doctor who can address your pain management needs successfully. The Pain Relief Center and its five specialized institutes are dedicated to meeting any and all of a patient’s needs. Located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Dr. Rodriguez and his friendly staff will help you along the path to recovery.

Our new center in Dallas is part of a nationwide development by Pain Relief Centers, geared to providing individualized and comprehensive healing and pain management services with unprecedented levels of compassion, care, and comfort for each patient.

es_MXEspañol de México