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How Serious is a Spinal Headache?

Many types of headaches are common, including tension headaches and migraines. Spinal headaches, on the other hand, are an intense type of headache that occurs as a complication of spinal taps or spinal anesthesia. 

Having a severe headache can be uncomfortable and concerning. In this article, we’ll discuss how serious spinal headaches are and what to do if you experience symptoms of this headache type. 

What Exactly is a Spinal Headache?

A spinal headache occurs when cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF, leaks out of the spinal cord. CSF protects and cushions the brain and spinal cord. It also carries nutrients that the brain uses for various important processes. 

With a spinal headache, the amount of CSF surrounding the brain decreases. This alters the pressure around the spinal cord and forces the tissues and nerves around the brain to stretch. This triggers a severe, dull, or throbbing headache pain that may worsen when you sit, stand, strain, cough, or sneeze. 

Other common symptoms of a spinal headache include:

  • Nausea
  • Neck pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Dizziness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Vision changes

Though less common, some people experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or radiculopathy symptoms (tingling and numbness) in the arms from spinal headaches. 

Are Spinal Headaches Serious?

Although spinal headaches can be very painful, in most cases, they go away without professional medical treatment. At-home care includes over-the-counter pain medications, drinking plenty of fluids (including caffeinated drinks), and lying down. Additionally, the CSF leakage that triggers spinal headaches generally isn’t dangerous. 

However, if you experience a spinal headache that lasts for 24 hours or longer, contact your doctor. You may need medical care to alleviate the headache, and a formal evaluation can ensure that your symptoms aren’t a sign of a more serious problem. 

Contact the team at Florida Wellness Medical Group to learn about our treatment options for persistent headaches and neck pain.