Just as you can experience a headache after a massage, you might have also experienced a headache after surgery or heard other people describe the agonizing, throbbing, pressurized discomfort that characterizes a headache after surgery.
Headaches generally occur anytime you feel a swelling or elevated nerve pressure. A signal of pain is sent to the brain in response to this pressure change, which leads to the painful experience we know as a headache.
There are different types of headaches that can vary from mild to severe in intensity.
After having surgery, it is relatively common for people to experience headaches. When you have post-operative headaches, there are a lot of different possible causes and medications that you can use to help find relief, and this post talks about them.
What causes a headache after surgery?
People experience headaches for many different reasons, but there are some common causes when you experience headaches after surgery, be it a minor or major surgery. After an operation, the most common reasons people get headaches are due to the type of surgery performed and the anaesthesia administered.
Types of surgery that can lead to a post-operative headache
The type of surgery you have had is another important factor to check for when suffering from a headache after surgery. While all types of surgery will leave you with a headache, specific methods of operation are more likely than others to cause severe headaches:
- Sinus surgery: Your sinuses may become inflamed following sinus surgery, which can cause changes in pressure. The pressure change might lead to severe sinus headaches.
- Brain surgery: If the density of your brain tissue and cerebrospinal fluid was modified through brain surgery, It might result in a severe headache after surgery.
- Oral surgery: Oral surgery will leave you with a tense jaw that can lead to tension headaches.
Type of Anesthesia administered during surgery
Anaesthesia is a type of pain medication treatment to relieve pain. Some operations require either or a mixture of different types of anaesthesia:
- General anaesthesia allows people to lose consciousness, effectively putting them to sleep so that they are unconscious of any discomfort.
- Local anaesthesia requires an anaesthetic infusion to relax a large portion of your body. The epidural, for example, is a localized anaesthetic combined with a narcotic that is inserted into your spinal canal to relax your lower body.
- Regional anaesthesia is identical to local anaesthesia, except that it is used to relax a much smaller tissue area, typically for a minor procedure.
Generally speaking, individuals tend to report the highest frequency of headaches after an epidural or spinal block is provided in spinal anaesthesia. Pressure changes in your spine cause such symptoms or if the spinal membrane has been punctured by mistake.
Headaches following spinal anaesthesia usually appear up to one day after surgery. And the headaches typically go away in a few days or weeks.
Following local and general anaesthesia, people sometimes record headaches. These symptoms tend to appear much sooner following treatment and are much more acute than headaches from the spinal cord.
Other causes of headache after surgery
Besides headaches caused directly by anaesthesia or the type of surgery performed, there are other, more indirect effects of surgery that can contribute to post-operative headaches, such as
- fluctuations in blood pressure
- anxiety and stress
- lack of sleep
- low iron values
How to Treat headaches after surgery
To experience a headache after surgery is often an unwelcome side-effect of undergoing surgery. Fortunately, there are many conventional ways of treating symptoms and controlling discomfort.
Typical remedies include:
- Over-the-counter pain medicine such as aspirin, ibuprofen
- Bed rest
- Cold compress to the area in question
- Patience and time. If you have had an epidural in your spinal cord and you have a resulting headache after surgery, that is persistent. The doctor can prescribe an epidural blood patch to regain spinal pressure to relieve pain.
When should you see the doctor for a headache after surgery?
If the symptoms of headache do not wear off along with the anaesthesia, something more severe may be happening to you —specifically, hypoxia and or total oxygen depletion. Hypoxia occurs when the blood doesn’t contain enough oxygen to supply the body’s vital organs. Headache may be one of the more noticeable signs in mild conditions. If not managed fast, this can often lead to a total loss of oxygen supply, which can result in brain damage and life-threatening conditions.
Hypoxia can be linked to severe illnesses and disorders, but the drugs used during anaesthesia can also cause such complications. If the headache you or someone close to you is experiencing is persistent or accompanied by rapid breathing, confusion, or discolouration, contact your doctor immediately.
You should see a doctor if the headache you are experiencing is persistent or accompanied by rapid breathing, confusion, or discolouration.
What are the two major causes of a headache after surgery?
The two major causes of a headache after surgery are:
- the type of surgery performed
- the type of Anesthesia administered during surgery
When you experience a headache after surgery, don’t fret. Most headaches should go away by themselves with relaxation, fluids, and time. When the symptoms are particularly severe and don’t respond to regular treatment, you can also discuss care options with your doctor.