WHAT IS OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA?
Occipital neuralgia is a painful condition in which the occipital nerves, the nerves that run from the top of the spine to the scalp, are injured or inflamed. The occipital nerves consist of the greater occipital nerve, lesser occipital nerve, and third occipital nerve that originate from cervical spinal nerves C2 and C3. The main function of these nerves is to supply sensation along the back of the scalp to the top of the head.
WHAT CAUSES OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA?
- Cervical disc disease
- Trauma to the head, neck, or shoulders
- Inflammation due to arthritis, gout, or diabetes
- Compression of the occipital nerves due to tight neck muscles
- Overuse injuries caused by keeping the head bent in a forward position
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA?
- Brief sharp, shock- or lightning-like pain that radiates from the back of the neck into the top of the scalp that may be spontaneous or aggravated by neck movement or brushing hair
- Unilateral or bilateral headache
- Increased sensitivity or tenderness of the scalp
- Restricted neck range of motion
- Pain behind the eye of the affected side
HOW IS OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA DIAGNOSED?
- Review of medical history and physical examination
- Imaging modalities to rule out other possible causes from the cervical spine
- Diagnostic occipital nerve block injection
HOW IS OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA TREATED?
- Treatment options may include:
- Ice or heat therapy
- Physical therapy
- Massage therapy
- Over-the-counter or prescription medications
- Therapeutic injections: occipital nerve blocks, botox injections, regenerative injections
- Surgical decompression
- Occipital nerve stimulation