An occipital nerve block is an injection treatment that is sometimes performed to diagnose and treat certain types of head pain. Many individuals with chronic headaches report that their symptoms often arise from the neck, or more specifically, the base of the skull. This is where the occipital nerves lie, and inflammation of these nerves can lead to a specific type of pain that is referred to as “occipital neuralgia”.
This condition is frequently confused with migraine headaches, as the symptoms are quite similar, however occipital neuralgia is a distinct type of disorder that requires an accurate diagnosis in order to be treated effectively.
True isolated occipital neuralgia is relatively uncommon, and rarely a primary headache disorder. This condition can often be attributed to trauma to the occipital nerve though whiplash injuries, inflammation or compression of the nerves by tumor or arteries.
What Are the Occipital Nerves?
The occipital nerves are situated at the base of the neck, running from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp. There are two occipital nerves on each side of the head, which innervate (supply feeling) to the posterior scalp, from the top portion of the neck up to the crown of the head.
Dysfunction of the occipital nerves can cause pain to radiate forward to the temporal area and can also radiate down the neck to the shoulders or trapezius. The pain can often be one sided and may include:
- A throbbing, aching or burning pain that initiates at the base of the head and spreads to the scalp
- Pain sensations on one or both sides of the head
- Pain felt behind the eye
- Light sensitivity
- Scalp tenderness
- Pain experienced when moving the neck
Treating Occipital Nerve Pain
An occipital nerve block works to control pain by reducing swelling and inflammation around the occipital nerves. This is done through the injection of a local anesthetic and steroid medication into the area around the nerves. Many patients begin experiencing pain relief within 15 minutes after the nerve block has been administered.
For those that do find relief from occipital nerve blocks, the duration of pain relief can vary widely, from a few days to several months. This procedure is performed both for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.
While occipital nerve blocks are not for everybody, for some patients, they can prove to be significantly more beneficial than any oral medication.
Headache & Pain Management in Austin
If you have been experiencing consistent headaches or migraine-like pain, please contact the Diagnostic Pain Center today to schedule an evaluation with a pain management physician, Dr. Robert S. Marks or Dr. Sauman A. Rafii. Call (512) 981-7246 now or click on the appointment request button below to get started.