Headaches after lumbar puncture

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Following a lumbar puncture, the patient may develop a headache. This type of pain may be bearable, moderate or severe.

It may spread from the head to the neck, and further down the patient’s back. This type of pain is alleviated when the patient lies down, or puts their feet up.


These are bilateral headaches that develop within 7 days after a lumbar puncture and disappear within 14 days.

  • The headache worsens within 15 min of resuming the upright position, disappears or improves within 30 min of resuming the recumbent position.
  • Headache after lumbar puncture is usually dull or throbbing in nature, and can start in the frontal or occipital region,which can later become generalized.
  • It is possible for the pain to radiate to the neck and shoulder area, and could be associated with neck stiffness.

Head movements exacerbate the pain and any maneuvers that increase intracerebral pressure, such as

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • straining or ocular compression, may also worsen the symptoms.

Other associated symptoms include lower back pain, nausea, vomiting, vertigo and tinnitus and rarely, diplopia due to cranial nerve palsy and even cortical blindness.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 10 Jan 2018