Before, we discussed diagnosing migraines with a lumbar puncture, or spinal tap– how it’s necessary to eliminate pseudotumor cerebri, which can mimic the trigger migraine headaches. (See Diagnosing Constant Migraines with a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap) – Why it’s Necessary) The spinal tap collects cerebrospinal fluids, and detects any underlying neurological disorders that may be causing constant headaches, nausea, and vision problems.
This section will prepare you for taking the spinal tap, and elaborate on some migraine-like aftereffects.
Before the test…
Before you go in for the lumbar puncture:
- You may have a light meal the morning of the test.
- Ascertain whether you may take your migraine medications on the day of the test, including any alternative migraine treatments.
- Bring a copy of your medical records, just in case.
- Notify your doctor if you are pregnant.
- Notify your doctor of any medications you are taking, prescription or over-the-counter, including migraine painkillers, or preventative treatments for migraines.
- Do not take any blood thinners or aspirin for three days before the spinal tap.
- Directly before the spinal tap, you will be asked to empty your bladder.
During the test…
If you’ve ever had an epidural, then you are already familiar with the basics of this procedure, which usually takes about 30 minutes.
- The lumbar puncture may be done in your doctor’s office or even in ER.
- You will be asked to lie on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest, or sit on the edge of a bed with your back bent into a semi-circle position.
- If your doctor requests a fluoroscopy, you will instead be asked to lie on your stomach while the needle is inserted into your back, so that the fluoroscopist may take pictures of your spine.
- Your doctor will clean your lower back and apply a local anesthetic.
- Next, you will be asked to sit very still while a long needle is inserted into your spine to draw cerebrospinal fluids.
- You might feel some pain, numbness, tingling, and an electric-type sensation in your legs and midriff. This is a reaction to the needle touching a spinal nerve, and is no cause for alarm.
- A manometer is then used to measure your cerebrospinal fluid tension, while your doctor checks for any sign of blood or other stimuli in your brain fluids. Several specimens will be collected and sent for lab work.
- After the spinal tap, you will be asked to lie down for several hours. You may feel dizzy and tired.
- You may get migraines, or migraine-like headaches that may last for a few days, in addition to back pain.
- To relieve headache and back pain, doctors recommend lying flat on your back, but not taking painkillers.
- If you experience any unusual headaches unlike migraines or symptoms like fever, neck stiffness, or numbness in your lower back, alert the hospital immediately.
After the test…
- After the spinal tap, you will be asked to lie down for a few hours.
- You may feel dizzy and tired.
- You may experience intense headaches similar to migraine afterwards. Post-procedure headaches may last for a few days.
- Back pain is also a common aftereffect that may take a few days to go away.
- To relieve headache and back pain, doctors recommend lying flat on your back until the pain dissipates.
- At home, you should drink plenty of fluids.
- If you experience any severe headaches unlike migraines or other symptoms like fever, neck stiffness, or numbness in your lower back, alert the hospital immediately.
When will I get my results?
Depending on the specific lab test, your results may arrive anytime between two hours and two weeks. If tests are negative, then you should speak to your migraine headache clinic or neurologist about experimenting with alternative cures for migraines, like acupuncture, biofeedback, vitamin therapy for migraines, or herbal supplements.
Please tell us…
Do you suffer from migraines that come once or twice per month, or are your migraine headaches constant?
Would you consider getting a spinal tap to rule out idiopathic intracranial hypertension?
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Read more about migraine prevention:
Top 20 Simple Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent Migraines
4 Headaches that Require Emergency Intervention
Diagnosing Constant Migraines with a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap) – Why it’s Necessary
Spinal Tap (Lumbar Puncture)