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Occipital Neuralgia

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Occipital neuralgia is a neuropathic pain disorder originating from the occipital nerve, located in the area of the second and third cervical (neck) bones.
It is a chronic headache characterized by a sharp, throbbing pain or feeling of pressure in the back of the neck and base of the skull. Pain can transfer to other areas of the head, such as the forehead or sides of the face. The affected areas may be sore to the touch and the eyes may feel strained or sensitive to light.

What Causes Occipital Neuralgia?

There are several causes, including:
• Inflammation of the nerves
• Trauma, particularly whiplash injuries
• Blood vessel inflammation
• A tumor pressing on the nerves
• Arthritis
• Keeping the head down a lot (for example, by doing lots of reading)
• Compression of the spinal cord

There can be other causes and if you had a neurological problem in childhood you are thought to be at increased risk of having occipital neuralgia.

What are the Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia?

Treatments vary according to the severity of the person’s condition. For mild pain, massage sometimes helps, as does rest and trying to avoid stress. Anti-inflammatory medications can also be used.

For more severe pain, anti-depressant or anti-convulsant drugs may be offered as these alter nerve function and stop the nerve transmitting pain. A nerve block can also be given. This is an injection of local anesthetic and steroid into the affected area. Its effects should be long lasting. If it isn’t, then another option is to have radiation beams fired at the affected nerve to damage it and prevent it from transmitting pain.

Your family doctor or neurologist will be able to discuss the best option for you.
If a tumor is discovered on investigation, then you will be referred to an oncologist for cancer treatment.

Sources: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Occipital Neuralgia Information Page - http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/occipitalneuralgia/occipitalneuralgia.htm#What_is
London Pain Consultants – Occipital Neuralgia. http://www.londonpainconsultants.com/articles/2006/10/22/occipital_neuralgia/

Add a Comment1 Comments

I have suffered from headaches for most of my life. For years I had migraines. Mostly from stress. Then I was bitten by a spider on my foot. It was weird and I don't know for sure what kind of spider. I would lose my appetite for weeks with severe headaches, lymphangitis. Long story it took about 10 years to recover. I still get the headaches and the pain is in the occipital gland. I get double vision when I am watching tv. Usually a dull pain and the back of my head feels spongy sometimes. The only thing that helps is aspirin. I might need a blood thinner but I refuse to take any of the medications like Warfarin or Xarelto . The side effects are worse than the problem they are supposed to relieve. Any thoughts on this?

July 25, 2015 - 1:30pm
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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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