How Do I Manage Lumbar Puncture Pain?

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  • Written By: Rhonda Rivera
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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The doctor administering a spinal tap does all he or she can to minimize a patient’s pain and discomfort during the process. Patients can help by staying still, which allows the procedure to end as quickly as possible. The area where the needle is inserted is numbed, so you should not feel pain during the lumbar puncture. Laying down for several hours after the procedure is also recommended to deal with headaches. Many people experience little to no lumbar puncture pain after the spinal tap, but some steps can be taken to minimize the odds of having pain.

To avoid unnecessary discomfort, do your best to stay in the position the nurse or doctor instructs you to take. Most people are asked to lie on their side with the knees drawn against the chest. This position puts the spine into the most optimal placement for collecting fluid. Sometimes young children are held in place by a nurse or guardian. Alert the doctor if you feel discomfort because he or she can usually try another place on your spine instead.


You should not feel lumbar puncture pain during the actual procedure. Minor discomfort is normal, but the doctor numbs the area to be worked on before inserting the collection needle. The anesthetic is also inserted by a needle, however, and you might feel a strong pinching feeling, discomfort, and pain. To manage this kind of lumbar puncture pain, take slow but deep breaths and count to ten in your head. The pain should be over within seconds.

Once the procedure is done, you will be asked to continue lying down for at least 15 minutes. The hospital or clinic often requires another adult to drive you home, since you may experience tingling below the waist. Lumber puncture pain from spinal headaches can be prevented or reduced by lying down for three to four hours upon returning home. Drink plenty of water and try not to move too much, even if you are feeling fine. Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug like ibuprofen to manage any pain.

In rare cases, people experience severe lumbar puncture pain in the back or bleeding. These side effects are considered complications because they should not occur. Contact your doctor as soon as possible for prescription pain medications and a closer look into what might be wrong. Infection and allergic reactions are some complications that can result in bad lumbar puncture pain and bleeding from the spine. These health problems should be taken seriously and not treated at home.


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