OCCIPITAL NEURALGIA

Occipital Neuralgia occurs when the occipital nerves, the nerves that are responsible for transmitting sensation to and from the back and top of the head to the brain, become inflamed or damaged. This inflammation can cause symptoms similar to those of a headache, as the occipital nerves travel from the top of the spinal cord up through the back of the head.

Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

What Causes Occipital Neuralgia ?

In many people with occipital neuralgia the cause of the condition is not found. However, certain medical conditions have been linked to the development of occipital neuralgia. Some people may experience the condition as a result of trauma to the back of their head, infections or tumors that develop near the occipital nerves. Muscle tightness or tension in the back of the neck along with conditions such as cervical disk disease may also increase the chances of developing occipital neuralgia. Surgery affecting certain areas of the scalp, and conditions such as gout, arthritis, and diabetes may increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Occipital neuralgia can also be the result of inflammation of blood vessels or pinched nerves within the scalp.

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Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

As the symptoms of occipital neuralgia are similar to those of a migraine, proper diagnosis is important for success in treating the condition. Some treatments prescribed for migraine relief will not help those with occipital neuralgia.

A common symptom of occipital neuralgia is pain often described as sharp pain or one that feels like an electric shock. The pain is felt in the back of the head and sometimes begins at the bottom of the head and in the neck before progressing upwards through the back of the head. Occipital neuralgia can be felt on one or both sides of the head or may present itself behind the eye. Other common symptoms include a sensitivity to light and pain when moving the neck. Another symptom of the condition is sensitivity of the scalp, which can be so painful that daily activities such as brushing or washing hair, and laying on a pillow can become painful.

Home Treatment

While the exact cause of the condition may not always be found, treatment options are available. Some of these treatments can be tried at home. At home remedies include finding a quiet place to relax or applying heat to the muscles in the back of the neck. Massaging these muscles may also provide relief from the symptoms of occipital neuralgia. Taking over-the-counter medications that are used to reduce inflammation, such as ibuprofen, may also provide relief from pain.

Procedures for Occipital Neuralgia?

While the exact cause of the condition may not always be found, treatment options are available. Some of these treatments can be tried at home. At home remedies include finding a quiet place to relax or applying heat to the muscles in the back of the neck. Massaging these muscles may also provide relief from the symptoms of occipital neuralgia. Taking over-the-counter medications that are used to reduce inflammation, such as ibuprofen, may also provide relief from pain.

Other non-surgical treatment options that are available include medications, and steroid injections. Medications that can be used to treat the condition include muscle relaxers, antidepressants and medications that treat seizures. Another non-surgical treatment option is a nerve block which is performed to numb the nerve thereby reducing the pain. Pain that is relieved following a nerve block often helps to confirm the diagnosis of occipital neuralgia. Nerve blocks involve a series of injections consisting of 2-3 shots given over a period of a few weeks. If the symptoms return after a nerve block the procedure may be repeated.

In rare cases, when symptoms are not controlled with non-surgical options surgery may be pursued. Surgical options include occipital release surgery. This is performed when the occipital nerves are compressed by the muscles or the connective tissues that surround them. In the event the pain returns after an occipital release surgery additional surgery to sever the occipital nerves can be performed. However, this procedure is used as a last resort as it causes permanent numbness in parts of the scalp.

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