Skip to main content

Care after Spinal or Epidural Anesthesia

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What do I need to know about care after spinal or epidural anesthesia?

You may have nausea, itching, or dizziness from the anesthesia. These should last a short time. You will be able move your legs in 1 to 4 hours when the medicine wears off.

What can I do to care for myself after I receive spinal or epidural anesthesia?

Your healthcare provider will give you specific instructions based on the type of anesthesia you received. The following is general information:

  • Bathe carefully. You may be able to shower the same day as your procedure. Do not take a bath or swim until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
  • Drink more liquid than usual. Liquids help prevent a headache caused by dehydration. Do not drink alcohol. Caffeine may help relieve a headache, but limit the amount you have. For example, have 1 small cup of coffee. Wait 30 minutes to see if the caffeine helps your headache before you have more coffee. Too much caffeine can cause a headache or make it worse.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines you are using to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • If you had spinal anesthesia, lie flat to relieve a headache. Try to lie still for at least 30 minutes when the headache begins. Do not lie on your back if you had epidural anesthesia.
  • Ask when you can drive. Your healthcare provider will tell you when it is safe for you to drive. He or she will tell you when you can return to work, school, or other activities.
  • Limit activity as directed. You may need to do light activities for up to 6 weeks after you have spinal anesthesia. Do not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds until your healthcare provider says it is okay.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have a seizure.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • Your heartbeat is slower or faster than usual.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a severe headache along with a fever and stiff neck.
  • You have a headache for longer than 48 hours.
  • You develop hives or swelling.

When should I call my doctor or surgeon?

  • You have a new or worsening headache, or the pain is not relieved with medicine.
  • You have trouble urinating after the anesthesia wears off.
  • You have constipation that lasts longer than 3 days.
  • You have questions or concerns about the anesthesia you received.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.