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A Guide to Treating Low-Pressure Headaches: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Relief Methods

Mar 26, 2024
Low-pressure headaches, often triggered after a spinal tap, are characterized by discomfort that intensifies when sitting or standing and diminishes when lying down. They can result from cerebrospinal fluid leaks due to needle insertion during medical procedures, cysts, or injuries. Symptoms include a stiff neck, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. Diagnosis is typically based on medical history or MRI imaging. Treatment focuses on pain relief, hydration, caffeine intake, and lying flat. Persistent cases may require an epidural blood patch or, rarely, surgery.
Homed-A Guide to Treating Low-Pressure Headaches: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Relief Methods

Treating Low-Pressure Headaches

Low-Pressure Headache: Understanding and Management

What Triggers Low-Pressure Headaches?

After a spinal tap, affecting about a third of people, low-pressure headaches can occur typically from a few hours to a couple of days later. During this procedure, a doctor inserts a needle between two lower back vertebrae to withdraw cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for examination. CSF cushions the brain, and a needle-induced leak can reduce this protective layer. This causes the brain to drop slightly, pulling on blood vessels and tissues, which triggers a headache. Other causes include bursting cysts near the spinal cord or injuries that tear the protective brain coverings.

Spotting and Diagnosing the Problem

These headaches hit harder when you sit or stand and ease off when you lie down. They often bring along a stiff neck, nausea, and sometimes vomiting. Doctors usually pinpoint low-pressure headaches based on your recent medical procedures and symptoms. If you haven’t undergone a spinal tap, they might use an MRI with a contrast agent to get a closer look at your brain.

Tackling the Headache

To deal with these headaches, doctors recommend painkillers, plenty of fluids, and caffeine to boost CSF production. Staying flat as much as possible also helps reduce discomfort. If these steps don’t cut it, a procedure known as an epidural blood patch might be the next step. Here, injecting a bit of your blood into your back can help seal the CSF leak and ease the headache. Surgery is a last resort, only considered in rare situations where other treatments fail.

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Treating Low-Pressure Headaches

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