Occipital Neuralgia

Are Occipital Nerve Block Injections Good for You?

Occipital Neuralgia (ON) is a debilitating type of headache, often confused with migraines. The pain usually starts in the back of the neck and spreads to the scalp on one or both sides of the head. Occipital nerve block injections can help you manage the symptoms of ON so you can go back to your normal life.

Burning pain
The pain is often described as a piercing, throbbing, electric shock.

Affected areas
You may feel it in the upper neck, the back of the head, behind the ears, and the eyes.


Key Facts About Occipital Neuralgia

Other symptoms
The scalp may feel tender to touch. Patients also claim sensitivity to light and even to the slightest movements.

ON vs. migraines
Migraines are related to changes in the brain, while ON is produced by inflammation, compression, or irritation of the nerves.

Possible causes
Injuries or traumas in the back of the head, tight muscles, osteoarthritis, diabetes, tumors, blood vessel inflammation, and gout.

How Occipital Nerve Block Injections Work

A positive response to nerve blocks can help confirm the diagnosis. This treatment consists of injecting a local anesthetic to control pain signals in a specific nerve or group of nerves. One of our pain specialists may recommend this or other pain management procedures depending on your specific case.


Important Facts About Nerve Block Injections

Diagnostic tool

Nerve blocks can also be used to diagnose pain conditions.

Short procedure

It doesn’t require preparation and the procedure only takes a few minutes.

Pain relief

It provides temporary pain relief and reduces inflammation.

FAQ About Nerve Blocks

What are occipital nerve blocks?

Occipital nerve blocks are often used to treat chronic pain conditions affecting the neck or the head, like occipital neuralgia, migraines, and cluster headaches.

The injection contains a combination of a local anesthetic and a steroid medication.

How is the occipital nerve block procedure?

The procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete and you will be awake the entire time.

One of our doctors will ask you to lay on your stomach. They will clear the back of your neck and apply an anesthetic.

Then they’ll inject the nerve block in the occipital nerve. You’ll be able to return to your everyday activities 24 hours later.

How effective are occipital nerve blocks?

Occipital nerve blocks are a very effective way to treat occipital neuralgia, providing moderate to significant pain relief.

The effects of this procedure usually last for several months. Patients with chronic pain conditions in the head and neck usually have about three to four injections a year.

Occipital nerve blocks tend to be more effective in patients whose pain is relatively recent.

What will I feel after an occipital nerve block procedure?

After the local anesthetic fades away (a few hours after the injection), you may feel some soreness for a couple of days. Most patients start feeling pain relief three to five days after the injection.

After the procedure, you will be asked to rest for a while. You should be able to return to your normal activities several hours after the procedure.

Am I a good candidate for occipital nerve blocks?

One of our pain doctors will create a special treatment plan for you depending on your diagnosis, considering your medical history and individual needs. They will decide if occipital nerve blocks are the best option for you.

Typically, occipital nerve blocks are recommended for patients who have already tried traditional treatments, like medication.

Some of the reasons your doctor may decide not to use nerve blocks on you are:

  • You are allergic to any of the components to be injected.
  • You have diabetes, glaucoma, or heart disease.
  • You are taking anticoagulant medications.
  • You have an active infection.

How long does it take to start working?

Some patients experience an instantaneous effect, for others, it can take a week. Everybody responds differently to nerve blocks.

Remember this is a temporary solution for pain.

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