Occipital Nerve Block

What is occipital neuralgia?


Cervical epidural steroid injections are used for the treatment of chronic pain stemming from the cervical spine. This may present as upper back pain, neck pain, head pain, and pain that radiates into the upper extremities. The injections are non-surgical and performed on an outpatient basis. Usually, a combination of steroidal and numbing medications is administered to inflamed areas of the spine, effectively reducing or eliminating chronic pain. Epidural steroid injections are usually reserved to treat patients who have not achieved adequate pain relief from more conservative treatment measures, such as the use of anti-inflammatory medication or physical therapy.

How is occipital neuralgia treated?

This condition is a distinct type of headache caused by irritation or injury of the occipital nerves. These nerves travel from the base of the skull through the scalp. This condition can result in severe pain and muscle spasms.

What are occipital nerve blocks?

Occipital nerve blocks are shallow scalp injections used for the purpose of diagnosing or treating pain stemming from the greater and lower occipital nerves. The occipital nerves are located along the back of the head just above the neck. By injecting a numbing or anti-inflammatory medication, it is possible to reduce swelling and inflammation in the tissues surrounding the nerves that can cause pain. Patients who respond best to occipital nerve blocks are generally those who report sharp or stinging head pain.

Frequently Asked Questions?

How can I find out if I am a candidate for an occipital nerve block?

You may be a candidate for an occipital nerve block if you have chronic or recurring head pain that is predominately located in the back of the head and only on one side. The only way to find out if an occipital nerve block is right for you is by scheduling a pain management consultation with your doctor.

What should I expect during an occipital nerve block procedure?

If you and your doctor decide that an occipital nerve block is right for you, you’ll be scheduled to return to your doctor’s office at a later date for treatment. The injection will be administered while you are seated or lying down. Prior to the treatment, your doctor will prepare the injection site with an antiseptic and may also numb the injection site using a local anesthetic to minimize discomfort. A very fine nerve block needle is injected into the scalp, where a combination of numbing medication and steroids is applied near the greater and lesser occipital nerves. The entire injection takes just minutes from start to finish, and you are likely to be allowed to return home immediately after.

What types of results should I expect from this treatment?

Results from occipital nerve blocks vary from person to person but typically do not appear until between 3 and 5 days after the injection. Many people achieve significant pain relief after the first injection. But because results are temporary in nature, repeat injections are necessary to continue managing occipital nerve pain.