By Medicover Hospitals / 26 March 2022
Occipital neuralgia is a condition of severe headache disorder, in which the occipital nerves, which run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp, become inflamed or injured. One may experience pain in the back of the head, pain behind the ear, or at the base of the skull.
Since occipital neuralgia symptoms are very common, it is easy for people to confuse it with a migraine or another type of headache. However, treatments for those conditions differ greatly, so it's critical to see your doctor and get the correct diagnosis.
Occipital Neuralgia Causes
Occipital neuralgia occurs when your occipital nerves are pressed or irritated, which can occur as a result of an injury, tight muscles that entrap the nerves, or inflammation. Often, doctors are unable to pinpoint the source of the problem.
It has been linked to a number of medical conditions, including:
- A head injury
- Tensed neck muscles
- Occipital headache
- Neck tumors
- Cervical disc degeneration
- Inflammation of blood vessels
Your doctor will inquire about your medical history as well as injuries in past. They'll also perform physical tests. They'll apply firm pressure to the back of your head to see if they can replicate your pain.
They may also administer a nerve block, which numbs the nerve to see if it provides relief. If it works, occipital neuralgia is the most likely cause of the pain. If your doctor believes your case is out of the ordinary case, you may be asked to take blood tests or an MRI scan.
To get the right treatment, you must first get the right diagnosis. For example, if you have occipital neuralgia and get a migraine medication prescription, you may not get relief.
Occipital Neuralgia Treatment
The first thing you'll want to do is to decrease pain and discomfort. For that, you can try the below things.
Apply heat compression to the back of your neck.
Rest in a quiet place.
Massage the muscles in your neck that are tight and painful.
Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen.
If these do not help, your doctor may suggest the following:
Muscle relaxants -
The doctor suggests some occipital neuralgia medication or Anti-seizure medications like carbamazepine
Note - Take this medicine only when it is prescribed by a doctor.
Antidepressants, nerve blocks and steroid injections -
The nerve block that your doctor may perform to diagnose your condition can also be used as a short-term treatment. It may take two to three shots over several weeks to get your pain under control. It is not uncommon for the problem to reoccur at some point and necessitate another round of injections.
A surgery -
An operation is uncommon, but it may be an option if your pain does not improve or returns despite other treatments. Surgical procedures may include:
Decompression of the microvasculature -
Your doctor may be able to alleviate your pain by locating and adjusting blood vessels that are compressing your nerve.
Stimulation of the occipital nerve -
To deliver electrical pulses to your occipital nerves, your doctor employs a device known as a neurostimulator. They can aid in the blocking of pain messages to the brain.
Occipital neuralgia is not a fatal condition. It can be treated and managed. Most people find that resting and taking pain medication relieves their pain effectively. However, if you continue to experience discomfort, consult your doctor. They'll want to see if there's anything else causing your pain.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Occipital neuralgia can occur any time, when sudden pressure is made on the neck or head, it can trigger pain.
The treatment options are -
It’s not a permanent condition, it usually goes away in 1 to 2 months. But in a few cases, it can stay for more than a year.
If not treated on time, occipital neuralgia complications can prove to be fatal. By following a proper health treatment plan it is possible to avoid major health problems.