Can A Lumbar Puncture Cause Back Pain?

Lumbar puncture

Lumbar puncture, commonly known as a spinal tap, is a medical procedure used to collect cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for diagnostic or therapeutic purposes. As a patient considering or having undergone a lumbar puncture, you may have concerns about the potential development of chronic back pain.

The short answer is that it is exceedingly rare to develop chronic back pain as a result of a lumbar puncture. We will discuss more about the procedure and risk of back pain from this article.

Understanding the Procedure

During a lumbar puncture, a thin needle is carefully inserted into the lower back, specifically between the lumbar vertebrae. The needle is guided into the subarachnoid space to collect CSF. While the procedure may cause some initial discomfort or pressure in the lower back, local anesthesia is administered to minimize pain during the process.

Immediate and Temporary Discomfort

It’s important to note that most individuals experience only temporary discomfort during and immediately after the lumbar puncture. The discomfort felt during the procedure is generally brief and tolerable. The local anesthesia used numbs the area, significantly reducing pain and making the experience more comfortable for patients.

Rare Instances of Chronic Back Pain

While lumbar punctures are generally considered safe, it is extremely rare for the procedure itself to cause chronic or long-term back pain. Chronic back pain refers to pain that persists for more than three months.

It is crucial to understand that any prolonged or chronic back pain following a lumbar puncture is more likely related to underlying conditions or factors other than the procedure itself. Examples of such factors include pre-existing spinal conditions such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease, unrelated injuries, or coincidental developments.

In rare cases, there can be nerve damage from a lumbar puncture. This often results in numbness or tingling and resolves in a few days to a few weeks after injury.

Seeking Medical Attention

If you experience persistent or worsening back pain beyond what is considered normal after a lumbar puncture, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider. They will assess your symptoms, evaluate potential causes, and recommend appropriate diagnostic tests or treatment options. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a specialist, such as a neurologist or spine specialist, to further investigate the underlying cause of your pain.


In conclusion, the likelihood of lumbar puncture causing chronic or long-term back pain is exceedingly rare. While temporary discomfort during and after the procedure is common, the majority of patients experience resolution of any post-puncture pain within a few days. If you have concerns or experience persistent back pain, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider, who can provide appropriate evaluation, guidance, and potential referrals to address your specific situation.

About the Author

Dave Harrison, MD

Dr. Harrison is a board certified Emergency Physician with a part time appointment at San Francisco General Medical Center and is an Assistant Clinical Professor-Volunteer at the UCSF School of Medicine. Dr. Harrison attended medical school at Tufts University and completed his Emergency Medicine residency at the University of Southern California. Dr. Harrison manages the editorial process for