The occipital nerves are found behind both ears and travel along the back of the head and up into the scalp. These nerves can become inflamed from trauma, prolonged muscle tension in the neck and shoulders, or degenerative changes in bones of the head and neck. The result is a severe headache. The pain is usually stabbing in quality, with a constant aching in between the stabbing. The nerve(s) affected is tender to the touch.
What are the Signs of Occipital Nerve damage/ inflammation?
Pain from occipital nerve damage usually starts at the base of your skull or nape of the neck. This pain can move behind the eyes or to the side, front or back of the head. There is a condition called occipital neuralgia which is a headache syndrome that can be the result of another condition or a condition in itself. There are a number of conditions that commonly result in occipital neuralgia, these include; osteoarthritis of the cervical spine, compression of the C2 or C3 nerve roots, cervical disc disease, diabetes, gout, blood vessel inflammation, or trauma to the occipital nerves.
How can the pain from an occipital nerve be treated?
Sometimes this pain can be treated with drugs, such as, anticonvulsants or antidepressants, which can work on the nerve endings to help lessen the pain. For immediate, short-term relief, a nerve block with a local anesthetic and a steroid (anti-inflammatory medication) can be performed by a board certified pain management physician. Occipital nerve block has been used for the treatment of headaches caused by inflammation of these nerves for decades.
How is the procedure performed?
The skin is prepped with an alcohol swab and a small needle is inserted under the skin at the area of the nerve(s) to be injected. The local anesthetic, along with the steroid, is injected along the nerve(s). This causes temporary numbness in the back of the head, and reduces the headache. The numbness will last for several hours. The headache can return when the local anesthetic wears off. It can take 3-7 days for the steroid to reduce the inflammation in the nerve, which will help reduce the pain.
Am I candidate ?
To determine if you are a candidate for occipital nerve block treatment book an appointment with one of our experienced Anesthesiologists. Newbridge Spine & Pain now has 4 convenient locations.