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Occipital Nerve Pain

Occipital neuralgia is most known as a headache syndrome that involves the occipital nerves. The condition is sometimes confused with a migraine or headache, but occipital neuralgia only occurs when the occipital nerves are inflamed or injured. Compared to migraines and other head pain, occipital neuralgia is extremely uncommon. Similar to many conditions like psychiatric disorders, this occipital neuralgia is diagnosed primarily from symptoms and scans. While a doctor may order a CT scan to examine the cervical facet joints, a MRI can be used to observe the soft tissue imaging of the neck. These sophisticated diagnostic techniques are designed to help providers locate the exact source of pain. According to many studies, the average age of people with occipital neuralgia is 52.


The most common causes of occipital neuralgia are usually the result of underlying conditions such as:

  • Cervical disc disease
  • Blood vessel inflammation
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Trauma to occipital nerves
  • Tumors in neck
  • Headaches


Patients with occipital neuralgia typically experience shocking, throbbing, and shooting pain, which starts at the base of the head and radiates to the scalp. Additional symptoms of the condition may include:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Dizziness
  • Neck pain
  • Pain on both sides of the head


Fortunately, certain mediation, therapies, and procedures can substantially lessen the intensity of the symptoms.

  • Medication Management: Topical medication is great for nerve pain as they usually do not have any side effects. Anticonvulsants and antidepressants may also be used for pain. Some of the most used medicine for treating occipital neuralgia include aspirin, desipramine, dilantin, and ketamine lotion. A provider will develop a medication management regiment to ensure the proper use of the medicine.
  • Occipital Nerve Blocks: Typically performed by extremely experience neurologists and anesthesiologists, these types of blocks may temporarily deaden pain nerves. As a result, this is the perfect treatment for reliving symptoms associated with occipital neuralgia such as headaches and migraines.
  • Physiotherapy: Most people report that massage and exercise can ease the pain that is caused by occipital neuralgia. Physiotherapists are trained to provide hands-on release of tight muscles and joints around the affected body part.
  • Botox: The primary purpose of this injection is to block muscles around the occipital nerve, which ultimately reduces pain and discomfort. This treatment provides a temporary relief to the symptoms of occipital neuralgia.

Patients can even drastically reduce severe symptoms of occipital neuralgia in the comfort of their home by resting in a quiet room or applying heat to the neck. If a patient does not respond to these treatments, surgery may also be considered.

To schedule an appointment or for more information, contact Allied Pain & Spine Institute today.

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