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Headache after ESI

Neck of Steel CindyNNeck of Steel Cindy Posts: 1,064
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:57 AM in Spinal Injections
Hey guys,
I haven't posted much lately, but I need to ask a question. Normally I deal with injections in the cervical spine area. As a reminder to those who remember me, and for information to those who don't, I have a neck injury that affected my legs. I have a lot of burning pain along the entire right side of my body all the way to my toes, and a bunch of other symptoms I won't mention now.

I just had 2 lumbar ESIs yesterday to see if this will help with any of the lower limb burning, since I do have issues with L2/3 and L5/S1. Honestly we have never felt like the lower body stuff comes from that though, so this really is an experiment. This would be a wonderful thing if it will help. My doctor wants to repeat it in 2 weeks, and then if no results after that, we will try a sympathetic nerve block. If no results then, we will know that it is all coming from my neck stuff.

Towards evening yesterday I started getting a headache when I am up, but it eases when I lay back down. I frequently have headaches anyway but this seems different from my "normal" headaches. It is a tad worse today than last night. It isn't horrible, but it is enough that I am miserable. I have read that sometimes one will need a blood patch after an ESI. Has anyone had this before? How bad does the headache get before this becomes necessary, and will it go away on it's own?

I would appreciate any feedback.
Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!


  • Could you be having a reaction to either the anestesia or the steroid/maracaine used in the injection?

    I just had a headache for 3 days myself. The 3rd day was the worst before it finally broke. I has ice packs all over my head, was taking tylenol & pain meds and nothing was working.

    Feel better,

  • Cindy, you need to call your doctor right away. This type of positional headache is indicative of a fluid leak, and a blood patch will "fix" it before it worsens. (A full-blown spinal headache is AWFUL.)

    For those who don't know, a blood patch is simply injection of some of your own blood into the epidural space, which closes the puncture quickly.

    Good luck, I hope you get treatment quickly.

  • sorry that you are suffering after your lumbar ESIs.

    Have you contacted your doctor to let them know about your headache, and particularly that it is worse when you are up and improves when you lie down?

    I think it would probably be an idea to speak with someone to let them know and see what they say.

    Do come back and let us know how you get on.

    I would also be interested to know if they decide what is causing your leg problems.

    I am also having leg problems and we are not sure which level of my spine is causing them.

    Have you had surgery?
    Hoping that you will start to feel better very soon. :-)

  • BB is right. Call the doc and let him know. If you have a positional headache that's not a run of the mill headache. Is the pain primarily across your forehead as if someone is reaching from behind you and peeling your head apart with the fingers planted into your forehead?

    Call the doc.

  • It is nice to have a support system here. I don't ask questions for myself very often. Thanks to all of you who have responded.

    Julie, I hope it is just temporary like yours was. Today is day 2 and it is steadily increasing in severity, although it is still tolerable. Ice packs do not seem to help though.

    Bubbles, my doctor actually had me come in earlier than my scheduled appointment time yesterday (was to be 1:30 pm. but had me come in at 9:30 a.m.) because he took an unexpected early weekend. I'm sure there is someone on call for him, so I will place that phone call when I get off here. I have considered the possibility of a fluid leak, but then I always try to stay calm and not jump to conclusions. It is so easy to get paranoid when we know about the possible side effects. But I DO NOT want a full-blown spinal headache. I've heard they can be awful.

    Jelly, I'll let you now the outcome of the lumbar ESIs and whether they help my legs. My history is quite complicated, and yes I've had a couple of neck surgeries. I'll PM you more about it when I feel up to typing more. for now, I'll just tell you that my leg issues began immediately upon waking with my first neck surgery, but that was several years ago.

    C, I'll take your advice and place that phone call. The pain is across my forehead, but at this point I don't know how to describe it. It is also at the base of my skull and behind my left ear, but that could be because I tensed up while trying to be up helping my daughter. I've been laying back down now with my laptop propped on my knees and the headache hasn't started relenting yet, so I'm a little confused.

    Being the weekend and all I don't know whether I'll get through to my doctor. I'm an hour away from the doctor or the hospital, so either way it isn't easy to get there, but my husband will be home in a couple of hours.

    Argh, I really didn't want any complications from this!

    Thanks again for the advice.
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • As a surgical RN I'm pretty sure this is what you're dealing with, Cindy, but your doctor will know for sure. Call their office, they could meet you at the hospital, or just direct you to go there and call ahead to let them know you're coming. Be sure to bring a pillow and lay flat in the car on the way. Try not to delay, I know you have to wait for your husband, but get going as soon as you're able.

    I'll be thinking about you. Feel better.


    P.S. -- Just an FYI, a spinal headache can actually persist for several weeks, as I found out when I had a failed stimulator trial. Don't try to wait it out, get it diagnosed and fixed. :)
  • I know just on a spinal tap, the wrong movement as the injection (or in my case, extraction of fluids) can cause megga headaches if you move wrong.

    My ESI's have been for my neck, so can't relate on the back. If I suddenly had headaches after an ESI, I would be on my doctor "yesterday" as they say. I hope they didn't puncture, and cause an CSF leak!!! Like was mentioned BB is probably right on target of suspicions? I hope you're feeling better soon. *HUG*

    PCTF C4 - T2, Laminectomies C5, C6 & C7. Severe Palsy left arm/hand.
  • At this point I have been instructed to drink lots, try to lay down as much as possible, and see if it will get better on its own. I thought I was a little better this morning. Got up, showered and within 20 minutes I was back in bed. The rest of my family left for church and I am here alone, which makes it easier to just stay flat.

    Has anyone else been instructed to wait it out to see if this kind of headache goes away on its own?

    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • What they told you is fairly common advice. By lying down you keep the intrathecal pressure down and sometimes it can allow the hole to close on it's own.

    Glad you called them.

  • Whew, finally I am feeling a bit improved. I can sit up without feeling like my head is going to explode. I ended up being very nauseated the past couple of days as well, so I don't know if it has been just part of the whole thing, or if it is a bug on top of the headache, but at least it seems to be nearing the end.

    Thanks for all the encouragement. I'm glad I stayed calm, avoided the ER, and didn't need the blood patch. At least I hope this is the end of it.

    My husband is putting his foot down about the 2nd round of injections. "Why would anyone willingly go through this when you don't even know if it will help you?" That is his question to me, and he is right. Statistically this should have been much easier, so IF I go ahead with the next set, odds are in my favor, right???? But at this point, I don't know if I will try again. Seems like I always end up with the .1% chance--I need to play the lottery.
    Surviving chronic pain one day at a time, praying for a reprieve because living another 40 years like this doesn't sound too fun!
  • One thing that I appreciate is the fact that my husband sees me day in and day out and knows when things work or don't work. He is also the voice of sanity when the bulk of my life seems to be insanity due to my injuries. He has learned to speak up when he thinks enough is enough or what's done is not enough. It sounds as if your husband is doing something similar. I have to remember that anything that happens to me good or bad, effects my husband as well. Sometimes even more so because he has to live it while I may be off in some drug induced state so I can't feel or remember feeling all the pain. I have lost several weeks at a time where I was on a Ketamine PCA and have no recollection. My husband doesn't have that luxury.

    Anyway, my totally too long of a reply is all about "listen to your hubby" he has a good perspective on what is happening or what isn't happening.

    Glad to hear you are feeling better and that you were able to avoid going to the ER for a blood patch.

    Best wishes,

  • I had a terrible headache after epidural injections, and after speaking with the anesthesiologist, we determined it was a reaction to the anesthesia. My next round of injections, he changed what he gave me slightly, and I did not experience headaches.
  • I too had an adverse reaction to an ESI. It was the 2nd in the series of three. I was having a horrible time getting into position (hunched over) so they could inject into area near L4-L5. They ended up knicking the spinal column which caused a lot more pain. In the previous injection I was awake through the whole process. This time after they missed thier mark, they must have either sedated me or I passed out. The next thing I knew I was laying on my back and had a horrible headache. They sent me home to recover. This was the most intense headache I have ever had. I had my wife drive me to the Emergency Room that night and by the time I made the half hour trek, she had to pull over 3 times as I was nautous. They put me in a wheelchair with a pillow and I had to wait, but once I got into a room and they turned out the lights and injected me twice with Morphine or something similar to it, it settled things down a little. The ER staff was great and they contacted the anesthesiologist that night and the next morning they performed a blood patch which within 10 to 15 minutes was the cure. This was way back in 2002...Since then I have had 3 surgeries with the last one being a fusion L4-L5-S1 (in 2006).

    I hope that things settled down quickly for you. I am new to this forum, because, you guessed it...New back problems and facing possible surgery to correct a Non-Union in the fusion from 2006. Just recently one of the facet screws broke and my back pain has increased majorly.
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