What does Occipital Neuralgia mean?
Occipital neuralgia (ON) is a headache disorder. The occipital region is located at the back of the head. The term “neuralgia” refers to pain in the distribution of the occipital nerves. The greater, lesser, and third occipital nerves originate from the upper cervical nerve roots, course up the neck muscles, and exit near the base of the skull. These pure sensory nerves provide sensation to the back of the head, up to the top of the head, and behind the ears.
Pain varies. Sometimes it shows up as severe, and shock-like episodes. Sometimes it shoots from the back of the head forward. Sometimes it feels like it’s right behind the eye. These headaches may be triggered or exacerbated by the simplest of activities – everyday “doings” such as brushing the hair, moving the neck or even resting the head on a pillow. Prescription medications are often prescribed for pain.
Occipital pain is common amongst headache and migraine sufferers. ON is diagnosed by history and test nerve block to see if headaches resolve with numbing medicine around the nerve. This is similar to your mouth being numbed up at the dentist, but instead of a nerve going to your mouth, it’s a nerve going to the top of the head. The test nerve block does not affect the brain and is just like any other numbing injection, lasting only a few hours.
At Acute Pain Therapies we administer an injection of local anesthetic along the affected nerve (occipital nerves) to temporarily ease the pain and as a first step to see if freezing the nerve (cryoablation), heating the nerve (pulse radiofrequency ablation) or providing other means of longer-term pain control. When conservative measures are ineffective, such as applying a warm compress and other topical solutions, occipital nerve blocks are a convenient and relatively benign tool for diagnosis and pain relief in an outpatient setting. occipital neuralgia induced headaches can also originate from the cervical spine and a cervical spine procedure might be indicated.
If you’re battling headaches, Occipital and/or migraine, contact our office to set up an evaluation to learn more about receiving relief from headaches.