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The Joy of Getting a Spinal Tap

The Joy of Getting a Spinal Tap

Getting a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis does not come easily. I’m not even referring to the onslaught of symptoms, less than qualified doctors, or the anxiety that comes with not knowing what’s wrong with you. This time, I’m referring to the actual tests that one undergoes when MS is suspected. I’ve recently talked about one of our favorites, the MRI, and how that is not the most pleasant experience. Now I want to discuss one of the other key tests used for determining a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, the spinal tap (aka lumbar puncture).

What is a spinal tap?

A spinal tap is a procedure in which a doctor inserts a needle between two bones of the lower spine to withdraw the liquid that is there. This liquid, known as Cerebrospinal Fluid (sometimes referred to simply as CSF), is present around your brain and spinal cord. The primary job of this fluid is to act as a cushion and shock absorber for the brain and spine. Once some of this fluid is removed, it is then tested.

Oligoclonal bands or O-bands

When they test the fluid, they are primarily looking for particular proteins called oligoclonal bands (sometimes referred to as O-bands). The presence of these proteins is a good indicator that the body is having an abnormal immune response or that the nervous system is inflamed due to a disease or infection. They can also look at the fluid and determine if there are any proteins that come from the breakdown of myelin. These tests are a good indicator that something is wrong with the immune or nervous systems. They can not determine if the issue is MS from this alone though. In fact, some people with MS will show no problems in their spinal tap results (The National MS Society says that 5-10 percent of MS patients will show no abnormalities). So a full diagnosis of MS will often involve a spinal tap, MRIs, Evoked Potentials (tests that measure the electrical activity of the brain in response to stimulation), as well as looking at a person’s symptoms and medical history.

My experience

I’ve actually had to endure two spinal taps in my life. The first was for a bout with meningitis and the second occurred while getting my MS diagnosis. A spinal tap requires you to be very still, stay hydrated, and then to rest on your back for at least an hour, but the longer the better. Not a big deal for me the first time around because of the meningitis. I wasn’t moving or doing much of anything then. The second time, I was actually feeling good. The MS exacerbation I had that had hospitalized me had passed and by the time I had the spinal tap, I was moving well. The procedure involved laying on my side while the doctors injected a local anesthetic into my lower back. While that anesthetic did a good job of numbing the entry point of what seems like a gigantic needle, it didn’t numb everything. Eventually, as that needle gets deep enough, you can absolutely feel it. However, for me anyway, it felt more like pressure than pain, and it was over fairly quickly. Afterwards, I laid on my back in the hospital for a couple hours while they observed me (standard procedure for spinal taps). I actually felt pretty great afterwards though, which led me to make a big mistake.

Take time to rest

I was in college (young and dumb as the saying goes) and itching to get back to playing hockey. So I rested immediately after my spinal tap but decided to go play in a hockey game that night. That turned out to be a massive mistake on my part. One of the big reasons for resting after a spinal tap is so that no cerebrospinal fluid leaks from the puncture site. This leakage often results in what is known as a spinal headache and it’s one of the most awful things I’ve ever dealt with. By my third shift into my hockey game, I was nauseated and hit with the most painful headache of my life. It was blinding it was so painful. After vomiting on the bench and being doubled over in pain, I had to be carried to the locker room where I just wanted to lay on the floor (if you’ve never been, the floor of a hockey locker room is not pleasant). I ended up having to be driven home where the pain persisted through the night and into the next morning. A call to the doctor left me with the advice to rest and keep hydrating (as well as being questioned about why I would go play hockey after a spinal tap). So my advice with spinal taps is to listen to the doctor and rest up afterward. Not all spinal taps have to end as my second one did. For many, they are a much easier procedure than they sound.

It helps to share our spinal tap stories

Spinal taps continue to be an important part of diagnosis for not only MS but many other neurological conditions. While not a foolproof way to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis, they can still yield valuable information about the status of your nervous system. While many in the MS community have already had one, I know we get a lot of people still seeking their diagnosis, as well as friends and family looking to know more about what we all go through, so it seemed like a good idea to talk about my experience with spinal taps. Thanks for reading, and I’d love to hear any related stories you might have in the comments!

Devin

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • sevensix
    1 year ago

    LPs come in many flavors from painful to absolutely no sensation at all. Believe me, I dreaded the first one, a real doozy. My wife was present and said I went to another planet
    during the procedure. It hurt. Over the years I’ve had five more LPs to include one I did not feel anything, in fact, I was talking to doc wondering when he’d start sticking me but the answer to my question was “I’m finished.” Another time I had an LP during surgery with the bonus spinal headache afterwards for a week. LPs are a holdover from the Dark Ages and nothing will change that despite advances in medical technology and technique. The actual LP takes only a few minutes and it is over. The pain, if any, is momentary and soon gone. Generally speaking you’ll only require one LP in your entire lifetime. That too will be soon forgotten.
    -sevensix

  • MSJamee
    2 years ago

    Hello – I’m actually having a spinal tap this Wednesday morning. Although, I had my first one back in 2002 to diagnose my MS, I’m terrified this time around. I don’t remember the procedure in 2002, but I do know it went well with no complications or headache! But I’m really nervous now! Help!

  • Erin Rush moderator
    2 years ago

    Hi MSJamee! If you are getting a spinal tap done by the same neurologist, you may have a similar experience to your first. I don’t blame you for being nervous, but as you can probably tell from the comments, much of the procedure and its outcome depend on the skill of the physician. And also, lying completely flat after the procedure does seem to help with the headache issue. You may be able to call the physician’s office and ask about how many spinal taps he/she has done. And while I don not want to advise you in any fashion, you, as the patient, always have the right to refuse any treatment. I hope your procedure goes well and you experience no issues! Best, Erin, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member.

  • Azjackie
    2 years ago

    My spinal tap was an absolute nightmare. If you are suspected of a neurological disorder find a qualified Neurologist to discuss.

    I did not do sufficient research and I paid the price. Maybe even still today. I’ll explain.

    I had unusual symptoms didn’t know what was wrong. Dizziness occasionally, misstepping occasionally, brief headache.

    First went to an ear, nose, and throat specialist thinking it was something with my ears. Not that but he noted something wrong with my balance.

    Next to an orthopedic surgeon thinking something from car accident hit by drunk driver. Broken leg hardware? No that’s not it. He recognized my balance issues scheduled me for MRI. Results return he walks in says “you have incurable MS” and walks out. I’m left in the room alone crying. Nice. I went home to the internet.

    I then found the Neurologist from hell. He wanted to perform a spinal tap. Meet me Ms Stupid after an MRI? sure. I laid on my side curled up. He swabbed topical pre-op goo, shot me up to “numb” me, then I’ll never forget he said “well here we go”. He inserted the needle some pain but not frightening. He removed cursed “damn nothing gotta do it again”. Reinserted and proceeded to cram the needle over and over upward. I felt intense pain from the back of my neck down to back of both knees. His assistant left the room. I was crying loudly and literally begged him to stop.

    He stopped and walked out through the lobby and out the front door of his office. I lay on the table trying to control myself for a couple minutes then thought I didn’t want him to come back. I got dressed and met my friend/boss/coworker in the lobby. I told her what happened on our way to her car. She said if she knew it was him walking out the door doing that she would’ve killed him

    I never want anything to do with him. I believe God will deal with him. He is still in practice wracking up complaints in the community.

    To this day I have intense pain in my thoracic to mid lumbar spine and great walking difficulty but do not know if that was the reason. Someday when I can afford an MRI my current Neurologist says we’ll find out and treat. Nightmares occasionally.

    Good news I found other qualified Neurologists, diagnosed and medicated appropriately since.

  • Erin Rush moderator
    2 years ago

    Oh my goodness, Azjackie! That is terrible! I am so sorry you had to endure that. I know spinal taps are generally not pleasant to begin with, but your experience goes well beyond the sphere of “unpleasant”. I am so glad you have found better neurologists and that you are receiving proper care. Thank you for sharing and I hope you never have to go through anything like that again. Best, Erin, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member.

  • Julie
    2 years ago

    I was diagnosed with evoked potentials and MRI and Optic neuritis but when I went to the neurologist my dr referred me to he said he also wanted the lumbar puncture.

    Now I lived in a small town so I went to the next small town from me because they had a hospital. Nothing like living in a small town and a small town hospital. As I laid on the hard table waiting for the doctor to start the procedure, my backside was hanging out, techs were breezing in and out of the room that anyone in the hallway could look into. Good grief!

    As the doctor started the procedure I noticed I could see the tv screen he was watching to get the needle in the right spot. Cool! I love watching as procedures are going on in my body. Yeah, I’m weird like that. When the needle was in the right spot the doctor said he was going to tilt the table up to speed up the procedure because the fluid drips like this….drip……..drip……drip……drip. So they start tilting the table and I feel like I’m going to slide right off the table! The nurse said there’s a little lip on the end of the table I can put my toes on to feel more stable. UGH!!

    After it was all done they start wheeling me to a room. I asked what was going on, that’s when I was told I had to lay flat for 4 hours. That was news to me. My parents had driven me so they were stuck there with me. They never complained. Dad went to forage for food in the cafeteria and mom sat next to the bed reading an article out of a 5-year-old magazine out loud to me. After a few minutes, I pretended I was asleep (sorry mom!) Of course they found the O-bands and the rest is history, my history anyway.

  • Calfeechick
    2 years ago

    I had a spinal tap in March and the procedure went very smoothly. The technician numb the area and because my lower back is fused had to make the actual puncture a few times before she got into the spinal column. I didn’t really feel any of this but had the sensation of it. Because this was a university research & teaching hospital I authorized them to take extra fluid for research. Which is something we should all consider. I rested for about 45 minutes then was able to get up and get dressed and leave. My brain has 20+ white spots that show up on MRIs, lesions T-2-5, nut the spinal tap fluid showed no O bands. I had no after affects.

  • southernsullivan
    2 years ago

    I had a spinal tap in February of this year, two weeks after I had brain and cervical MRIs. I’m still not completely sure why I had the spinal tap – the MRIs indicated that I had many lesions in my brain and cervical spine, confirming my MS diagnosis. I didn’t question the general neurologist who ordered the additional test, though; I just was glad to finally have an MS diagnosis at the age of 55 and move forward with a treatment plan.

    The spinal tap procedure itself was not bad at all. Mine was fluoroscopy-guided and the radiology tech explained each step during the procedure. I did get the painful spinal headache afterwards, though, so I wish I had been told to hydrate before the procedure and return to the hospital for a blood patch if needed.

    The spinal tap revealed eight O- bands, so I guess there’s no doubt about my diagnosis. However, I think even more painful than the spinal headache, were the out-of-pocket costs of these diagnostic procedures ($5,000+, even with health insurance). High deductible insurance plans hurt!

  • kateharris2418
    2 years ago

    I had a spinal tap in 1992, when I was 43. The neurologist told me to have someone drive me home afterwards, and to stay flat on my back for 24 hours, to avoid the “low spinal fluid” headache. I followed her instructions, and never got a headache. My father, who was then a retired neurosurgeon, was amazed that I didn’t get the headache. He said that his spinal tap patients always got the headache. So apparently lying flat on my back for 24 hours saved me a lot of pain!

  • jcc1074
    2 years ago

    My neurologist is not recommending a spinal tap. He said thAt it doesn’t have to be done. I am 43 and have approx 32 lesions (total)on both sides of my brain. That along with symptoms he feels confident diagnosing me with MS.
    I am seeking another opinion but curious if your thoughts about NOT getting a spinal tap.
    Thank You

  • frogi1013
    2 years ago

    A spinal tap isn’t just about checking for protein markers to make a positive diagnose for MS, but ruling out other possible infections and conditions. Despite my MRI lighting up like a Christmas tree, I was told that the doctors needed to do a LP to rule out Lyme disease and other possible problems.

    That said, it was HELL and I got the headache everyone is talking about. I hope your Dr is right and you aren’t at risk for other issues.

  • TracyShudo
    2 years ago

    No you do not need one. Don’t have it…. I had one and wrote a very long thing about it. But mine was not to confirm MS it was to check if I had the JVC vires in my system. Again don’t if you don’t need to.

  • itasara
    2 years ago

    I was diagnosed based on history and MRI. I have read horror stories about spinal taps and am glad I wasn’t directed to have one. I probably would have refused. I have read that with MRI and a good radiologist, spinal taps to diagnose MS are not as prevalent as they used to be.

  • TracyShudo
    2 years ago

    Hi I was also diagnosed without the tap. But then 10 years later was forced to have one so I could stay on a medication I wanted to stay on. They were looking for the JVC Vires and it was hell. But all in all I have the JVC and I demanded to be put back on medication any way. DR’s do things they want to, we need to stand up for ourselves more often.

  • Adriana
    2 years ago

    My spinal tap procedure was done on my side. I felt pressure, not pain. I stayed hydrated at home while laying flat with a long straw coming from my water bottle. I was drinking so much I had to pee all the time and standing up was awful. I had the worse headache of my life. I never want to feel like that again. My monster headache lasted for 5 days. We were snowed in with a ton of snow and couldn’t get out. It was absolute torture. We finally got out and back to the hospital where I had a blood patch done. The headache almost went away instantly after the patch. I sympathize with anyone who has had those headaches.

  • RaniPaints
    2 years ago

    When I had my spinal tap, I learned a really interesting lesson from a nurse I know. She told me there are two ways to do a spinal tap, either with a thin gauge needle or a thick one. Now what is the difference? With a thick one because the fluid flows much faster, it’s over much quicker. If you get the finer needle, it’s much longer. But which is better? Apparently, the large needle is much more likely to lead to those nausea headaches we don’t want. But the finer ones are much less disruptive to the spinal cord. So you were less likely to have that headache afterwards. Now if you have had a long slow spinal tap, then you know that you get extremely sick to your stomach. So sure that you are going to throw up! Well you have to weigh it out. Do you want to be nauseated for longer in order to have no headache or would you rather have it over quickly but a higher risk of headache? Now that is your choice

    The other thing is body position – some doctors prefer the patient to lie on their side while other doctors prefer it if you sit on the edge of the table and lean over, with support of an aide or nurse. It is up to the doctor which one he or she likes. Nowadays, they usually use a kit which contains everything they need, the needles the swabs the anesthesia, everything. Probably he prefers one position over the other. And probably prefers one type of needle over the other. Which to choose? My feeling is go with the position that your doctor is most accustomed to. If he or she normally does them lying on their side, I would go with that. As for the needle, that is something to ask the doctor about beforehand. She told me there are two ways to do a spinal tap, either with Saints engage needle or eight six one. Now what is the difference? With a sick one because the fluid flows much faster, its over much quicker. If you get the finer needle, it’s much longer. But which is better? Apparently, the large needle is much more likely to leave to those nausea headaches we don’t want. But the finer ones are much less disruptive to the spinal cord. So you’re less likely to have that headache afterwards. Now if you have had a long slow spinal tap, then you know that you get extremely sick to your stomach. So short that you are going to throw up! Well you have to weigh it out. Do you want to be nauseated for longer in order to have no headache or would you rather have it over quickly but a higher risk of headache? Now that is your choice

    The other thing is Molly position some doctors prefer the patient to lie on their side well other doctors prefer it if you sit on the edge of the table and lean over, with supportive and orders. It is up to the doctor which one he were she likes. Now a days, they usually use a kit which contains everything they need, the needles the swabs the anesthesia, everything. Your daughter probably prefers one position over the other. And probably prefers one type of needle over the other. Which to choose? My feeling is go with the position that your doctor is most accustomed to. If he were she normally does them lying on their side, I would go with that. As for the needle, that is something to ask the Dr about beforehand.

    I had a doctor who preferred me sitting on the edge of the table and using the fat needle. I requested the same one and he accommodated me. And that is the end of today’s lesson!

  • RaniPaints
    2 years ago

    And here we see the results of relying on your phone to accurately take dictation!

  • TracyShudo
    2 years ago

    Ok after reading most of these reports, I am very glad no one looked like they went through the hell I did. I was diagnosed with MS did not need spinal Tap to confirm this. But I became a person on a clinical trial study about 13 years ago. During the study in year 2 3 people died. So medication stopped. Before the 2 years I was having 3 to 4 attacks a year and that’s high for RRMS. During first 2 years on study drug I only had 1 small attack. Then when medication was stopped for 18 months I had 3 really bad attacks, one attacked my brain stem. Ok everyone that is still reading is ok where does this spinal tap come in??? Well after research was done the medical site I was doing study on said drug is back but in order to get it “YOU MUST HAVE A SPINAL TAP “ Ok not happy about this, neurologist assured me she had done many of these in a room where she would just inject needle and then someone would have to drive me home because I would have to lay flat on my back for a long period of time. Well she tried over 3 different times and couldn’t find the right spot. So she then said well you need to have this done by a radiologist. This was kind of cool because as they are placing the needle in they are looking at a screen that shows exactly where the needle needs to be placed. Well just as they are about to finish the computer that is running the screen crashes. I have a needle in my back and I am told that it will take about 5 or more minutes to reboot machine. But DON’T MOVE you have the needle in your back. Ok the spinal tap gets done, I lay on my back for 1 whole day except to go to washroom. 3 days later I had headaches and some other issues. I was told I had a spinal leak, so I had to go back to hospital get a huge needle to take blood out of me and then they had to do the whole spinal tap again, this took 3 times again to get needle in to its correct spot. Then they put the blood they have drawn in to the spinal tap to stop the spinal fluid from leaking. Ok so over all this was one of the worst things that has happened with my MS in 23 years. So would I have another one again? Not unless they said I was going to die if I did not get it. Glad for everyone else that had a much more positive experience.

  • Gay W.
    2 years ago

    I also thought I was ready to return to work the next day after laying in bed. I was totally wrong. Worst headache ever. It only subsided when I laid down. My neurologist told me to get back in bed and drink caffinated liquids all day long. She assured me I didn’t want a blood patch. I obeyed and took 2 more days off. Good thing I like coffee and tea!

  • Jack
    2 years ago

    PS. Make sure to lay down for the rest of the day!

  • Jack
    2 years ago

    Nosea headache, that is normal after Spinal Tab. Other than this is practically painless…

  • Karencsk
    2 years ago

    I had a spinal tap in 1980 and the doctor told me I might have a headache if I raised my head the first day. Little did J know that would last for 2 weeks! I had a 6 month old child who I was still nursing and had I known I would have waited on the test. My calls to the doctor went unanswered and life was not good. I have a wonderful doctor now. Just wish J had found him earlier. Like you, oh the folies of youth

  • flora68
    2 years ago

    My first spinal tap was part of a myelogram, which is always expected to be painful but it was the complete opposite for me; it made me feel BETTER! I’d had a migraine for over 24 hours before and during the tap, and as the dye was injected, it totally ERASED my pain, and it didn’t come back! For a lot of migraines I’d had, including that one, the spinal tap with injection of dye would have been easily worth it just to get rid of the migraine. The only discomfort was the local, which burned but only briefly.

    So three years later I wasn’t too worried about getting an LP to rule out MS, and it wasn’t a big deal either, except that it diagnosed me with MS instead of ruling it out. I had some unpleasant sciatic pain during placement of the needle, but I was used to that because of my spinal pathology. I wasn’t asked to stay in the hospital for two hours, only one hour, but my son had my car seat reclined as far as it would go so I was mostly lying down on the way home, but I had to walk into the house on the way to the bed, where I think I rested the rest of the day.

    There was never even a HINT of a headache, and the radiologist and I knew the reason why; it was because of the same pathology that complicated the procedure itself; I had (and have) severe multi-level spinal stenosis, which meant that they had to do TWO taps because even though it was done under fluoroscopic guidance, the radiologist couldn’t get enough CSF from the first site, and barely got enough from the second site to fill all the tubes. So there was no way I would have a headache-producing leak afterwards because my CSF barely flowed AT ALL, like one of those old fashioned ice trays where the water doesn’t move from one space to another. The amount of CSF around my brain probably never dropped at all, even during the taps. Silver lining I guess. But it did leave me with a large bulge in what used to be the concave small of my back, and that bulge was there for weeks; I couldn’t lie on my back comfortably for a couple of days because of a giant, tender bulge.

    I’ve had 13 epidural lumbar steroid injections (some before the MS diagnosis and some afterwards) and in all cases, the local was unpleasant and the injection itself was REALLY painful, because the injections were being made into a very tight, inflamed joint space and there was a lot of sciatic pain, but in every case the pain was entirely over when the epidurals were over.

    No physician has found any reason to order any further spinal taps or even epidurals since then (the epidural steroid injections stopped helping me over 10 years ago), but if I had to go though any of that again, I wouldn’t sweat it.

  • TracyShudo
    2 years ago

    Glad you are so positive and have gone trough so much.

  • Missvampunk
    2 years ago

    I had one when I was a toddler. Only know because my mom told me about it. But when I was getting diagnosed I they scheduled an LP for me. No Pain, No worries, but they were only supposed to take a total of 10cc of fluid. These wonderful people took 13cc. I was in so much pain for a week. I laid on my back in the dark for a week. Missed a week of work. and they told me I could not take any pain medication to alleviate the pain.

    When I had to go to a new Neurologist he told me that I do not have to have another LP. I really like this new DR. LOL

  • kkcurtis
    2 years ago

    Lucky me had the pleasure of enduring two spinal taps. The first one was excruciating, and this is coming from someone who has had over a dozen kidney stones and 2 c-sections, 10 years apart and was up walking an hour after each one, so pain I know! The procedure lasted over an hour because the neurologist couldn’t find the right spot. After being injected numerous times, he finally gave up. When I went to leave the pain was so severe I couldn’t walk. This pain lasted for almost a week. They then scheduled me for a guided spinal tap and I was a nervous wreck, but it didn’t hurt at all. The actual punctures for my first test didn’t really hurt but were uncomfortable. I don’t know if it was the procedure or the fact that he attempted it numerous times. My advice is that if you are apprehensive, ask for a guided spinal tap, particularly if you have any back issues. I later found out due to my back conditions, (scoliosis, bulging and herniated disks, etc.) I should have had a guided one to begin with.

  • Eden
    2 years ago

    I’ve had them a few times now.
    Twice while I was admitted to hospital, and one with my Neurologist at the outpatient centre.
    The first 2 times I was out of it. Having had a stroke (hence the hospital stay) I really had no feeling. Felt a tiny bit of pressure, but that’s it.
    The 3rd time I was scared because I’d heard all the horror stories about how painful it was, how big the needle was, etc., etc. But again, only felt a little pressure, no pain. The doc & I actually carried on a conversation while it was being done. Didn’t even know he was finished until he told me to put my clothes back on!
    Couldn’t do much for the rest of the day, but that is to be expected.
    I guess I’m in minority in that I really didn’t have any issues
    Everyone is different, eh!

  • tammyjc1975
    2 years ago

    Hi, my spinal tap was horrible! I got the worst headache ever. My question is I got the results but I don’t understand it very well. My MS test came back normal but they found some kind of bands (or lack of). Which with the several lesions this is what they diagnosed me with??

  • caya1430
    2 years ago

    Hi tammyjc1975, I’m sorry your spinal tap ended with the worst headache in the history of time. I was so afraid more of the headache than the actual procedure. I was instructed to drink as much fluids as possible the day before and it did prevent me from having a headache. My results were normal also but the MRI was the true factor of my diagnosis especially the lesion on my cervical spine. My symptoms have also made progression. I hope this has helped you.

  • Jonyhotdog1
    2 years ago

    I had my 1st “tap” in September. The doctor told me the worst part would be the anesthetic, and he was correct. The procedure itself took about 5 minutes and there was no pain or discomfort at all. No headache after. I was sent right home afterwards. For me the only bad part of the tap was the results I got a few weeks later, but I was expecting that anyways.

  • Carol
    2 years ago

    The spinal tap sounds horrible. So far, I have been able to avoid it. I was diagnosed with MS after undergoing an EMG and the MRI, which isn’t bad, it was the results which were so really shocking. I’ve also undergone back spine surgery and will undergo a cervical spine surgery.

  • metaspencer
    2 years ago

    It’s cool to see you talking about this procedure — judging from the other comments and your remarks, I’m not alone in having a very hard time with the procedure itself. For me, while the procedure was rough, it was also very eye-opening in terms of the results. With MS, a definitive diagnosis is something that some of us searched for over many years, and the lumbar puncture helped bring about the diagnosis in a solid way. Nice post.

  • PetieJ
    2 years ago

    It’s bizarre, but having MS for 26yrs. it wasn’t til I started reading this site that I even knew spinal taps were part of the dx process. However, I’ve had four back surgeries & oh, yes indeedy, I’ve had spinal taps! The first one as done by the neurologist who did the first part of my eventual surgery–he did a great job. I was kept overnite after the puncture, to lay flat for hours, hydrate and whatnot. Well, that night I had a bad dream and I popped up out of that bed, went to the door peeking out, seeing two nurses at the nurses station, I dashed across the hall and plastered myself against the wall! I have no idea why or what my intention was, but I was caught and was led back to bed.
    The next day I was discharged and went home to my parents house. And here came the headache. I was made comfy as possible on the pull-out bed in the family room so I could still be amongst the ‘living’, but I had to literally crawl the length of the house to get to the loo, unable to raise my head. This lasted a long, solid week. I survived.
    Years later, another pre-surgical lumbar puncture. I was home, on the couch, and had the worst headache I’ve ever had in my life–& I get migraines regularly–but I had spoken to my husband on the phone and he knew my situation. He happened to be working at the hospital where I had the procedure, mentioned what was going on with me to his radiologist buddy who said Get her in here Now!!!
    He flew home, came dashing into the house telling me what he’d been told while he grabs shoes for me and off we go. I was admitted to the hospital, laying in a bed wondering what is going on-and finally someone explained that the puncture didn’t seal, therefore I was leaking CSF, thus, the headache. Then, two guys came in, if I recollect they were anesthesiologists, I was on my side tucked up as tight in a ball as this one big guy could get me (made more space between the vertebrae). Blood was drawn from a vein in my foot (?!) which didn’t hurt anymore than any other blood draw, and that blood was injected into my spine. Ta da! Almost instantly I had relief! I went home that night.
    I would Highly recommend to anyone who has the crushing headache after a spinal tap to call your doc, let him/her know, and if you have to, ASK for a “blood patch”. If there’s something that can be done, you shouldn’t have to suffer! Unless, of course, you just want to go surfing or play hockey or ……..

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you PetieJ! I’ve heard so many bad stories lately of headaches. I’m almost surprised that a blood patch isn’t just a part of the practice these days!

  • Saskia
    2 years ago

    Having a spinal tap was the worst medical experience. It took 4 tries before the needle went in because I had some spinal stenosis in the area. Afterwards, I had no rest period in the hospital, and 15 minutes after the tap, I was sent for a blood test, then sent home. I was so blinded by pain I could hardly see. For TWO WEEKS every time I I had to go to the washroom (which was often because you have to rehydrate) and I raised my head above my body, I would vomit. I really don’t know what happened for 2 weeks…I know my husband was very frightened for me. I was too ‘out of it’ to make sensible decisions like going back to the hospital… I definitely did not enjoy this experience

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you Saskia, that sounds horrible! I am so surprised and appalled that they did not make you have a rest period afterwards!

  • Dimitri
    2 years ago

    Thanks for the very helpful article.
    Note to self: no hockey after spinal tap. Haha.

    Yeah the headaches after a lumber puncture suck. I’ve only had one lp, but I too didn’t follow doctor’s order that well. I just got up too quickly in the hospital and had a wicked headache for the next couple of hours. Besides that the lp was a breeze. Mine was a X-ray guided one too.

    I was quite surprised how quickly the body can replenish the CSF.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks Dimitri! I really feel like, at least in my case, they didn’t really explain what would happen if you dont rest appropriately. Judging from some other comments, that seems to be fairly common too

  • melack01
    2 years ago

    Devin, Devin, Devin….oh you foolish man! Hockey! Oh well, lesson learned.
    My lumbar puncture went real well. I laid on my stomach and they guided the needle using x-ray. They elevated the bed at an angle to help with removal of the CSF, all while listening to Eric Clapton. Ok, they told me I didn’t have to but I held on for dear life when they had me elevated. I sure didn’t want to slide off the bed with a big needle in my back. I felt no pain, a sting with the anesthetic, and pressure during the lumbar. I was kept still for 3 hours and sent home, where unlike you I followed doctor’s orders and took it easy. But then even on my best days, I’ve never played hockey.

  • Devin Garlit moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thank you melack01! That certainly sounds like a much more positive experience! My first one was similar to that. Your stores go to show that it really can be a smooth procedure if you are prepared and the staff knows what they are doing!

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