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Alternative Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

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Headache related image Photo: Getty Images

If you have occipital neuralgia and react badly to drugs or don’t want injections or surgery, there are alternative therapies available to treat this condition. These include:

Chiropractic Adjustment:

Chiropractic neck adjustment loosens muscles, releasing tension and allowing inflammation to heal and the pressure to be taken off the nerves. Patients with occipital neuralgia have recovered and become symptom-free after having chiropractic treatment. An author from The Clinical Chiropractic Journal wrote "There is no uniformly effective treatment for this condition, once conservative treatment fails, surgery is the next option but there are many reported side effects and failed surgical cases. This case demonstrates how this syndrome was relieved in one patient by chiropractic management." The article then went on to describe a patient who was essentially cured by chiropractic adjustments.

Cranial Osteopathy

Patients with long-term headache conditions were found to benefit from cranial osteopathy. Cranial osteopathy is a type of head manipulation and massage that disperses pressure and stress from the body. In 2004, 26 people were involved in a study to assess the value of osteopathy in patients with chronic headache conditions. All 26 were given muscular relaxation exercises to do at home and they completed a headache diary about the frequency and intensity of their headaches, but the placebo group was given no other intervention. The control group also had three osteopathic treatments. It was found that "The people in this study who did relaxation exercises and received three osteopathy treatments had significantly more days per week without headache than those who did only relaxation exercises."

Nutritional Therapy

Greater attention to diet, and in particular, B vitamins may help relieve occipital neuralgia by boosting the body’s ability to heal itself. Vitamin B12 aids normal nervous system development and nerve regeneration so some patients take a B12 supplement. Having plenty of fatty acids like fish oils or flax seed oils can be helpful in reducing inflammation around the nerves.


A registered homeopath may be able to prescribe remedies for occipital neuralgia. There are also homeopathic tonics available that help the nerves. Remedies like German chamomile are anti-spasmodic and pain relieving.


A study in China found that acupuncture and acupoint injection was effective as a treatment for 92.8 percent of greater occipital neuralgia patients. Half of the patients had been given the anti-convulsant, carbamazepine and only 71.4 percent of them found it helped, making the acupuncture more effective than standard treatment.

Clinical Chiropractic, volume 6, issue 3, Pages 120-128 (September 2003).
A Comparison of Selected Osteopathic Treatment
and Relaxation for Tension-Type Headaches, American Headache Society - http://patientsites.com/media/file/290541/OsteoHeadache.pdf
J Tradit Chin Med. 2008 Sep;28(3):175-7 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19004197
Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2007 Sep;27(9):668-70 - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17926620

Joanna is a freelance health writer for The Mother magazine and Suite 101 with a column on infertility, http://infertility.suite101.com/. She is author of the book, 'Breast Milk: A Natural Immunisation,' and co-author of an educational resource on disabled parenting, in addition to running a charity for people damaged by vaccines or medical mistakes.

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

My son started having head pain at 11 that progressed and since he was 15 its 24/7. He's had nerve blocks 6-7 times, ablation of the nerves two times over the last 20 years. He's 30 now. For 20 years there's been no help, but for a very brief time compared to the amount of time he has suffered, to relieve the constant dull, throbing and at it's worse knife stabbing pain. That brief time was due to pain medicine, which since has been banned for long term treatment for chronic pain in young adults. And maybe the elderly, I don't know... He has gone for days without sleep with no relief in sight. I understand there are people that abuse drugs, I get it. What about those who truly need them? What happened to the Hippocratic oath? As a mom my heart breaks everyday for him, but that is nothing, compared with what he has to live with....

January 2, 2018 - 7:07pm
EmpowHER Guest

This is totally worthless. A massage isn't going to help this situation and in fact may hurt it significantly. Go to a good neurologist, if they don't listen dump them immediately. You will have an uphill fight every step of the way. Good luck.

May 29, 2016 - 11:44pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Massage does nothing for my occipital nerve headaches either. If the compression of the nerve is due to overly tight muscles, maybe massage would help. But there are many possible causes of irritation to the nerve. I wouldn't expect massage to help in more than a small fraction of sufferers.

October 14, 2017 - 6:40am
EmpowHER Guest

I have occipital neuralgia caused by trauma because of cervical manipulation by a chiropractor. Please do not recommend this to your readers.

September 23, 2014 - 4:15pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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