Texas Pain Network

Texas Pain Network

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is a very distinct type of headache that exhibits rather precise symptomology. Most common is a chronic throbbing, piercing or electric-shock-like pain in the back of the head, upper part of the neck or behind the ears. The pain can often be severe and begins in the neck, spreading upward into the head.

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Causes

  • Excessive pressure on hand or wrist Inflammation or swelling
  • Obstructed blood flow
  • Fractures or trauma to the wrist
  • High blood pressure
  • Fluid retention, pregnancy or menopause
  • LigamentRepeated motion of your wrist rapture

Symptoms

  • Tingling sensation, pain in the thumb or first three fingers
  • Pain and burning sensation
  • Weakness in muscle

A Literal Pain in the Neck

In this scenario, the occipital nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp are inflamed or injured and this causes pain in thresholds ranging from mild to severe. Other associated symptoms include:

  • Pain behind the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pain when you move your neck
  • Tender scalp

This condition can often be confused with a migraine as the symptomology can be quite similar but the treatment is very different. To begin, your physician will recommend applying heat to the back of your neck to relax the muscles. Massage, rest and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs will also be advised.

In the event conservative treatment doesn’t work, prescription medications can also be administered to control inflammation and reduce pain:

  • Muscle relaxants
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Antidepressants
  • Nerve blocks 
  • Steroid injections

Surgical procedures for this condition are rare but are available if pain cannot be controlled. They include:

  • Microvascular decompression: alleviating the compression around the affected nerve by adjusting the blood vessels that may be compromising it.
  • Occipital nerve stimulation: blocking the pain messages to the brain from the associated nerves with electrical pulse stimulation directly to your occipital.

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