My Tips For Your First Spinal Tap
I had my spinal tap whilst staying in hospital during my first attack. I wanted to avoid it as much as possible because at the time, every time I moved I would get excruciating nerve pain. For a spinal tap I had to be in a sort of fetal position, on my side.
A spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture in the UK, is when a needle is inserted between the bones in the lower spine. The definition of a spinal tap sounds pretty frightening, I was extremely petrified to get it. But in all honesty, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Spinal tap tips
If you’re not staying in the hospital, I would recommend getting someone to drive you in. It may be uncomfortable to drive back home since the site the needle was inserted could be painful. Another tip I would give is to have someone you’re comfortable with to be there for you whilst you have the spinal tap. I had my dad with me, he held my hand and spoke to me whilst the procedure took place and it helped calm down my nerves a lot.
If I was alone, I would probably have all sorts of things running through my mind and it would have made the process much more difficult.
If you’re like me, I get nauseous due to being nervous. Eating a good meal can help me avoid feeling weak. Check with your healthcare team if there is a period of time before the procedure where you should not eat.
The next tip I would give is to make sure you lay down flat after the spinal tap for at least an hour, I was told it reduces the risk of getting headaches as a side effect of the procedure. I took this pretty seriously and didn’t move at all for over an hour because I didn’t want to suffer from more pain than I already was from my attack.
You may still get a headache and other side effects, but laying down flat for an hour straight can reduce the risk of having headaches long-term. I was also told that eating properly and eating foods that are salty can help reduce headaches from the procedure.
It should not hurt a lot, but if it does, you might want to take painkillers like paracetamol. Also drink lots of fluids, this can also help ease the headache. I was on the highest dose of codeine, three times a day when I got the spinal tap so the pain was not as bad.
If your symptoms feel like they are worsening, please let your doctor know as it could be a dangerous side effect!
I was told to keep physical activity low, for at least a day or two after my spinal tap. I didn’t need to do much physical activity after mine but that was for different reasons, as I was partially paralysed in the hospital waiting for a diagnosis.
These are some of the tips I would give to someone who’s having a spinal tap for the first time. It can be nerve wracking thinking about the procedure but I promise you it’s not as bad as it seems. Always keep your doctor informed about how you are feeling, and be sure to follow their recommendations as your needs may be different than mine.
Did anything else help others with handling their spinal tap?
Were you misdiagnosed, prior to being diagnosed with NMOSD?