Occipital nerve block is a steroid injection done around the occipital nerves, which are located above the neck area on the back of your head, originating from the top of the spine. It is called “nerve block” because the injection blocks the pain from the nerves by numbing it.
This process is usually used for the diagnosis and treatment of occipital neuralgia (injury or inflammation to the occipital nerves), as well as for pain in the neck, scalp, and near the ears. It is also used for the treatment of migraines, tension, and severe headaches on the forehead.
The injected steroid reduces swelling and inflammation around the occipital nerves responsible for pain, which ultimately reduces the associated pain and other symptoms. Below is a brief outlook of the occipital nerve block procedure.
How it’s Done
You need to inform your health care provider about any kind of medication you are taking, including any vitamins or dietary supplements, because certain medications may need to be stopped before the procedure.
When ready, the skin is numbed with a local anesthetic to avoid pain during the nerve block procedure and to confirm the source of the pain. Then by using X-Ray guidance, a needle is guided over the occipital nerves and the medication is injected through it.
The entire procedure takes only a few minutes and you can carry on with your normal activities the next day. However, make sure that you restfully on the day of the injection and do not soak the area in water or take a shower.
The steroids start functioning within 3-5 days and the effect lasts for several days to months. If you respond to the injection positively, then additional injections can be taken when the symptoms return. Sometimes, a series of injections may be needed to treat the pain for good.
Usually, the procedure does not involve any serious complications or risks. Temporary pain at the site of injection is the most common side effect, but infection, allergies, and bleeding may occur in some cases. You can use an ice pack for any soreness or swelling.
However, people having active infections, heavy diabetes, or heart diseases, taking blood-thinning medication, or allergic to any kind of medication, need to discuss their conditions with their doctor and postpone or avoid the procedure.