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Readers Respond: Experience with lumbar punctures and advice for others

Responses: 125


Updated July 30, 2009

Have you ever had a lumbar puncture (aka “spinal tap”)? For most people on their way to an MS diagnosis, this is one of the tests performed. What was your lumbar puncture like? Was the procedure better or worse than you thought it would be? Did you get a headache afterwards or have any other side effects? Do you have any advice for people going in for a lumbar puncture to make the experience a little more pleasant?

Lumbar puncture

I had one as part of my diagnosis. The post puncture headache was awful 10/10 for pain. Was told to take a paracetamol if I had a headache. Would have taken a gun if I had one. Went to work the next day. I don't know how I got home. My neighbour, who is an anaesthetist, told me to go to bed and drink strong coffee. He also got me to wrap my abdomen tightly with a cloth. He said that those performing lumbar punctures have no idea what they are doing. I have refused to have any more.
—Guest Linda


Go SWIMMING!! I got an LP and all I wanted to do was lay prone and not do anything. But after three days I was stir crazy and restless couldn't stand laying in bed but couldn't stand getting up. My husband recommended swimming. I could still be prone, but active. The pressure and buoyancy of the water instantly relieved the headache and I was able to expend some energy without straining. The relief lasted hours. Resist the urge to suffer in bed GO SWIMMING!!
—Guest Lena

not so bad!!

i had pressure on my brain as above..i have had to have three lumbar punctures and after some diazepan and paracetaamols i was fine.the shooting pain was a pain but it doesnt last. I was so scared but the relief i felt after i couuld finally see out of my eyes over rode the pain of the puncture.all i wanted to do was see!the heaadache after was not so bad at all bt as someone else has explaoned,you do have to stay lying down straight after the lp,i didnt the first time...and the pressure headache was awful a few days later..very scarey...the next times i made sure i stayed lying down..and my headaches were at a minimum :)
—Guest sophie

My experience with Spinal Tap/Lumbar Pun

My spinal tap ended up causing me to be bed bound for 2 weeks. I kept complaining to my Neurologist, that my neck hurt so bad that I could not sit up and he kept telling me to take Aleve, which I was doing, but it wasn't helping. My husband had to take care of me (bedridden) for two weeks. After the 2 weeks (of tourture), I decided to go to my Family Doctor who told me (right away), that the area where my spinal tap was done did not close which caused spinal fluid to be leaking which caused all the pain in my neck. He told me that I would need a "patch" to close up the wound and my pain would stop immediately. Now, I terribly afraid to "ever" have another LP or ST. BTW, I never did have a headache like most people complain of...weird, huh?
—Guest skeeterette

21 year old... First LP

Last Sunday morning I went into the ER for a sudden and intense headache. She explained that because of no history and how sudden it was, that she wanted to test for blood in the brain. This meant a Cat Scan, and a Lumbar puncture. She explained that the CT only caught 80% to 85% of the blood. The Lumbar puncture would catch the rest if there was any. Now, I hate needles, with a passion. She fully explained everything to me, how it would happen, what I would feel, what happened afterwards. I was shot with 3 needles to numb the pain. 1st two were bad, but the third one was a LOT more painful. However, I barely felt the needle for the actual tap and it was over in less than 10 minutes. I got a VERY sudden headache, but it went away afterwards when I laid down. She explained that if I got a headache when I stood up the next day, to drink caffeine. That has helped. My back was achey, and burning, but now it's getting better 5 days later. Mostly just my lower back when I exercise now.
—Guest Crystal C

lumbar puncture

I had my puncture done 3/17/12. My head has been hurting since & the cokes are not working. What am i to do
—Guest Ashley Miles


Hi I had an epidural in 2006 the doctor burst my spinal bag 5 times I got an instant headache and was placed in a dark room laid down flat for a week after this week my doctor then preformed a blood patch and yet the headache didn't go how ever they sent me home after a week I had my first seziure and they kept coming most days for almost six months then kinda just stoped. So in 2010 6 weeks pregnant I had another seziure and right through my pregnancy the seizures were there as I got bigger the bk pain was horrid and I almost lost my child through the fits 39 in one week. So my child is now 19 months old and the seizures are dying down funny thing is my hospital has told me no way could this be a result of them lumbar puncturing me 5 times in one hit . Has anyone else heard of anything like my story please email me emielou24@hotmail.com thanx
—Guest Emie

LP Pain

I had lumbar puncture done unexpectantly 4 days ago. It took the physician 30-45 min to get the right spot. This was painful within its self. I guess he was tired because i was his 7th lp that evening before going home . Finally, he used the longest needle possible & after five min or so, an electric shock shot through my body & he yelled, "i got it"! After another 10 min, he was done. I had lie there 30 min before getting dressed. I had minimal pain that day but next day i had lower back pain & intense tingling in legs & feet. 3 days afterwards, i had the worst headaches. They have been horrible. I have taken migraine meds, caffine etc....nothing works! could use
—Guest Ophelia

Got the headache = Blood Patch ASAP Pt2

including that if I felt any nerve pain that he would have to quit or cause permanent damage. I had it and they were unable to draw as much as they wanted. That night the headache from heck started. Thank God for the anesthesiologist doctor that came to the ER. Unfortunately the nurse they gave her wasn't up to par. She had me sit completely still with my dad holding me for support. Then she told the nurse that as soon as she put the needle in my back the nurse would have to draw out the blood and hand it to her instantaneously. The nurse wasn't prepared so the doc reached over drew the blood out faster than lightning and inserted into my back. If you get the Spinal/Lumbar Headache, don't hesitate, don't wait it out; get to the ER fast and beg for that Blood Patch. There are no words to describe the relief it gives. Five years later they want me to do another. My suggestion is to do it only as the last possible option. My next Lumbar Puncture will be when heck freezes over.
—Guest Lisa

Got the headache = Blood Patch ASAP Pt1

While I appreciate the article; having never had the Spinal Headache one can never understand. I truly appreciate you stating that you did not get one, clearly, because it is a major side effect. I have yet to hear of anyone getting the "no big deal" headache. I have yet to hear of anyone getting a mild headache that tends to go away on its own. "Excruciating" really doesn't even begin to cover the pain. To someone who has survived years of disabling migraines and other headaches and pains, imagine all of those combined into one massive headache and then add getting constantly hit by a ten ton truck and that might be a mild comparison. You should also be aware of all the risks involved, and never be afraid to question everything; the most severe risk being paralysis. And any consequential back issues, like I had several days later that lead to a herniated disc right in that area. I was warned by the doc doing the procedure of most risks,...
—Guest Lisa

terrible "post LP" experience

I had my lp done by a doctor in the emerg, they can't figure out why I'm having nausea vomitting and loss of balance after ct scan results were clear! My fmily dc said it was only an inflammed inner ear but the neurologist need to make sure if I have MS or menengitis which they find out all clear from that LP. It was done quickly last Wed.night not even 20 mins.,was released from the emerg at dawn and the next thing I feel was severe headache at the base of my neck going all through my head! I just came back again from dififferent emerg hospital and they just gave me pain killer. I couldn't stand up or sit up and even bear the weight of my own head for 5 mins. "its excruciating pain". It is the 5th day now am still in bed,if only I have read some other stories about LP before, I refused to have it done with me...can't go to work,can't even eat what I want because of nausea and vomitting! Shoul I go for Epidural blood patch?need help...

Lumbar puncture

I have had 5 lumbar punctures. I had one headache after the third one and got a blood patch. It was a God send. They take blood from the arm put it in the back and you are instantly well. For me I had no other problems. I write this only to encourage those of you who need one to see that they can be a breeze not at all to minimize the experience of others. I took a friend yesterday for one and it was amazing. They used a topical anesesthic and then a small needle to numb deeper gave her 10 mg. of Valium and she literally came out smiling. I had been up with her all night as she read one horror story after another and was prepared for the worst. I am so grateful for the outcome. Please know if you have to have a LP that it can be an o.k. Experience.
—Guest Monique

LP experience

I went into hospital due to numbness & tingling from waist down for 3 weeks. Had 2 MRI's (not bad) and a LP. The radiologist that did the LP looked thru an xray machine as he did it - great experience - no pain & then no headache. If I have to do it again - I will make sure this Dr. is the one I use. I am newly diagnosed with MS since the tests were done.

LP deaf mare

Had my LP on Friday, wasn't as painful. As I though it would be, it was the after that was and still is crippling pain. My neuro told me to stay on my back for 48hrs. That I could get up to use the bathroom and to eat, I sat up for dinner and suddenly broke out in a drenching sweat, my ears started ringing then I went deaf fir a minute. This was very scary. I haven't been able to sleep from excruciating lower back pain that radiates down my legs. My headaches have gotten worse and worse, I tried going to the hospital but as you know our health care sucks, I feel like I'm going to die and they tell me it could be up to a 4hr. Wait I have to lie down so I went back home to suffer and still suffering no strength to wait, so if you are thinking on having one make sure your doc gives you something to take home for pain extreme pain!!! And buy a bed pan, stay in bed. I'dget never do it again.
—Guest Tania

LP - not!

I am an ICU nurse. I am recently diagnosed with MS. Since there can be false negatives with an LP for MS, the test does not confirm nor rule out MS. Weighing that against the known and serious risks of an LP, I chose against this test. I was still diagnosed using multiple other confirmatory and safer tests.
—Guest ICU Nurse with MS
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