Occipital Neuralgia

Learn More About This Condition & Our Approach

What is Occipital Neuralgia?

Occipital neuralgia is a form of a headache that causes pain along the upper neck and the back of the head because of inflamed or injured nerves. The nerves that are inflamed or injured are known as the occipital nerves and are the sensory nerves that run from the upper part of the neck to the back of the head. Occipital neuralgia is often confused with a migraine because it has similar sharp, stabbing, throbbing, or burning symptoms.

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia?

The symptoms of occipital neuralgia vary from person to person. The most common symptom is pain along the back of the neck where it meets the skull, and along the back of the head. Other symptoms of occipital neuralgia include:

  • Burning, aching, and throbbing pain at the base of the head to scalp
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Pain when neck is moved
  • Tender scalp

Causes Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is thought to occur when the nerves become inflamed or irritated. The causes of the nerves becoming inflamed or irritated could be whiplash or another neck injury, injury to the back of the head, arthritis of the cervical spine, muscle spasms, infection, diabetes, and blood vessel inflammation.

Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

Treatment for occipital neuralgia can vary for everyone. At home, remedies would be to apply heat to your neck and get plenty of rest. Gulf Coast Pain Institute offers plenty of treatments for individuals in pain:

  • Massage therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Muscles relaxants
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Nerve block injections
  • Steroid shots

If these more conservative treatments do not help the pain, there are more invasive options if it becomes necessary:

  • Rhizotomy (destroying the nerve root to eliminate pain)
  • Implanting an occipital nerve stimulator
  • Neurolysis (applying heat, freezing the nerve, or applying different chemicals to the nerve to block the transmission through the nerve)
  • Decompression surgery

Experiencing symptoms or want to find out more?