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Sunday, November 21, 2010

SPINAL HEADACHES AND COPING WITH THE PAIN

A day after giving birth to my son Adwa, about a year ago, I started to experience a throbbing pain at my lower head, down to my neck and upper spine.

The pain was undescribable, it's a headache like no other. It only bring tears down to my face...

A spinal headache can occur as a result of a procedure such as a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) or epidural block @ epidural anesthesia (such as that performed during a woman's labor and delivery, which I had that time.). In these procedures, a needle is placed within the fluid-filled space surrounding the spinal cord. This creates a passage for the spinal fluid to leak out, changing the fluid pressure around the brain and spinal cord. If enough of the fluid leaks out, a spinal headache may develop.


Epidural anesthetics procedure

Because the design of spinal needles has been improved, spinal headaches after a spinal tap or administration of spinal anesthesia are rare. When epidural anesthetics are placed with a larger needle than that used for spinal anesthetics, however, the likelihood of headache is higher if the epidural needle should inadvertently pass through the dura matter (covering of the spinal cord).

A spinal headache may occur up to five days after the procedure is performed. Such a headache may be prevented with bed rest after a procedure. But mine was occured till 7th day after the procedure. Argh... What a painful experience I had there.


What Are the Symptoms of a Spinal Headache? As I described before, the spinal headache often is described as "a headache like no other." Spinal headaches are much more severe when the person is in an upright position; they improve when the person lies down.

How Are Spinal Headaches Treated? The first course of treatment for spinal headaches involves supplying adequate hydration to try to increase cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) pressure. Sometimes intravenous fluids (fluids administered into the veins) are given; other times the person is advised to drink a beverage high in caffeine. I do take Coca-cola a lot that time, hehehe.... Strict bed rest for 24-48 hours is also recommended.

In addition, if a person develops a spinal headache following a procedure, the anesthesiologist can create a blood patch with the person's blood to seal the leak. To administer a blood patch, the anesthesiologist inserts a needle into the same space as, or right next to, the area in which the anesthetic was injected. The doctor then takes a small amount of blood from the patient and injects it into the epidural space. The blood clots and seals the hole that caused the leak.
 
So, how do we cope with this extremely painful headaches?
 
1.  Lie down. This won't get rid of the headache, but most people with spinal headaches get some relief from lying down.

2. Hydrate. Drink plenty of water. It is important to increase the pressure in the cerebral spinal fluid. It may be possible to do this just by drinking plenty of fluids.

3.  Drink something with caffeine. Caffeine constricts blood vessels, which helps boost pressure in the spinal fluid. I suggest, drink a cup of coffee (kow2 punyer), or a bottle of Coca-cola.

4.  Rest for 24 to 48 hours. This might be difficult if you just had a baby, but do the best you can to stay off your feet and in bed. Feed your baby with your expressed milk is the best way. A spinal headache is often related to position, in that the head pain worsens with standing or sitting and improves with lying down. Coughing or shaking the head may also make the head pain worse. The longer the person is standing, the longer the spinal headache will remain after lying down.
5. Contact your doctor if none of these methods help. A procedure called a blood patch is a final option an anesthesiologist can perform. This involves taking a small amount of blood from the patient, and then injecting it into the hole in the spinal column. The blood clots and stops the leak, providing relief from the headache.

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