Spinal Headache: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 4/12/2019

A spinal headache is a type of headache that occurs in almost half of people who undergo a spinal tap or receive spinal anesthesia. A spinal headache may occur up to five days after this type of procedure is performed.

Signs and symptoms of a spinal headache include pain in the head that can vary in intensity from mild to very severe. The pain may be dull or throbbing in nature. Another associated symptom of spinal headache is that the pain may improve when lying down and worsen in a sitting position.

Cause of spinal headaches

A spinal headache is caused by changes in spinal fluid pressure when a procedure such as a spinal tap or an epidural block is performed. In these procedures, a needle is placed within the fluid-filled space surrounding the spinal cord, leading to removal and leakage of fluid.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/12/2019

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