Page Updated on Dec 9, 2021 by Dr. Reyfman (Pain Management Specialist) of Pain Physicians NY

Occipital neuralgia can be behind long-lasting and recurring headaches that are associated with restricted mobility of the head. There are various treatment options that can be used to manage the symptoms. It is advisable to start treatment as early as possible. You can find everything you need to know about the topic here.

What are the symptoms of occipital neuralgia?

With occipital neuralgia, pain occurs in the supply area of ​​the major occipital and minor occipital nerves. These nerves run on the back of the head towards the forehead, temples and side of the skull and sometimes pass very deep muscle layers. If the occipital nerves are irritated, headaches can develop in the area where these nerves spread. The pain can last from a few minutes to several days. If you have all of these symptoms, make an appointment to see our doctors at pain management center in Brooklyn.

Where can the pain occur?

Occipital Neuralgia

  • At the back of the head
  • Along the crown to the forehead
  • Temples
  • Skull
  • Often one-sided pain
  • Pain can radiate up to the eyes, ears and arms.

How is the pain felt?

  • Stabbing, boring, sharp and shooting
  • Often worsening pain when moving the head
  • Pressure sensitivity of the affected head region
  • Numbness possible
  • Touch sensitivity of the scalp is possible.

What causes occipital neuralgia?

Neuralgia in the area of ​​the head can be caused by inflammation of the nerve, pinching or squeezing. The headache of occipital neuralgia can often be attributed to chronically tense neck muscles. The headache can also be caused by a head injury. Other factors that can damage or narrow the occipital nerves include:

  • Infections and inflammation
  • Problems with the intervertebral discs
  • Joint arthrosis in the upper cervical region
  • Gout
  • Diabetes mellitus, etc.

How is occipital neuralgia diagnosed?

Whether a headache is triggered by neuralgia can only be determined with a medical diagnosis. Descriptions of the course of pain and pain patterns as well as previous illnesses provide the doctor with important information with which he/she can narrow down the cause of pain. There is also a diagnostic differentiation from other neuralgias such as postherpetic neuralgia, in which scalp pain can result from herpes zoster.

How is occipital neuralgia treated?

Severe permanent headaches affect the quality of life. The physical limitations often go hand in hand with psychological problems, which is why the disease should be treated holistically. This is called multimodal pain therapy. The start of treatment should not be postponed too long since the likelihood increases that the body develops a so-called pain memory.

This means the ability of nerve fibers to learn to save pain as a memory and to call it up again at a later opportunity. This can go so far that the patient can still feel pain even if the cause has long been eliminated. In order to prevent chronic pain, early contact with a pain clinic makes sense.

The treatment of the cause of occipital neuralgia is important for the successful treatment of neuropathic headaches. If the underlying disease can be cured, the nerve pain may also disappear.

By relieving tension and correcting posture, the irritated and oppressed nerve is given the opportunity to find its way back to its original position and heal there. As accompanying physical measures, many patients find warm or cold applications pleasant. High-frequency and magnetic field treatments can also have a positive effect on metabolism and pain.

Systematic pain therapy – the doctor usually prescribes an anti-inflammatory pain reliever that works directly at the location where the pain develops. Only in very severe cases is a centrally acting pain reliever prescribed that works directly in the brain or spinal cord.

Local nerve block – the doctor blocks the irritated nerve strands with a local anesthetic.

Microsurgical neurolysis is a minimally invasive surgical procedure, during which the constrictions on the nerve are removed.

Long-term use of pain medication for occipital neuralgia often leads to severe side effects. Therefore, careful complementary medical procedures should always be considered as an alternative or as a supplement.

In order to reduce the suffering of those affected, accompanying pain psychotherapy can also be useful. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, computer-assisted biofeedback and relaxation procedures can break through the pain carousel for nerve pain in the head.

The treatment approach of naturopathy aims to strengthen the body’s self-regulatory powers. Proven methods include, for example, acupuncture and where improvements can sometimes be achieved by trigger point treatment.

In conclusion, living with pain can significantly affect your quality of life. If you need help, make sure to book an appointment with us. After a detailed physical examination and anamnesis, our neurology specialists will determine which treatment option best suits your needs.