Scroll Top

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia

What you need to know about
Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is a disorder in which the occipital nerves, which travel from the top of the spinal cord to the scalp, are irritated or damaged. Pain in the back of your head or at the base of your skull is possible.

Because the symptoms are similar, it’s easy for people to confuse it with a migraine or other types of headache. However, because the therapies for those disorders are so dissimilar, it’s critical to see your doctor acquire the proper diagnosis.


Occipital neuralgia causes acute pain in the back of the head and neck. It feels like a sharp, jabbing electric shock. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Aching, burning, and throbbing pain begins at the base of the skull and progresses to the scalp.
  • Pain behind the eye on one or both sides of the head
  • Light sensitivity is a term used to describe a person’s sensitivity to light
  • The scalp is tender
  • When you move your neck, it hurts.


Your doctor will inquire about your medical history as well as any previous injuries. They’ll also do a physical examination. They’ll apply firm pressure to the back of your head to see if they can duplicate your discomfort.

They may also administer a nerve block to numb the nerve to test whether it provides relief. If it helps, the discomfort is most likely caused by occipital neuralgia. If your doctor believes your condition isn’t typical, you may also have blood tests or an MRI scan.

To get the correct treatment, you need to acquire the right diagnosis. If you have occipital neuralgia and are prescribed migraine medication, you may not be able to find relief.


Occipital neuralgia occurs when your occipital nerves are compressed or irritated, which can be caused by an accident, tight muscles that entrap the nerves, or inflammation. Often, doctors are stumped as to what is causing it.

It has been connected to a number of medical disorders, including:

  • Trauma to the back of the head is a common occurrence.
  • Neck muscle tension or tightness in the neck.
  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Neck tumours are a type of cancer that develops in the neck.
  • Disc disease of the cervical spine.
  • Infection.
  • Gout.
  • Diabetes.
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels.


The first thing you’ll want to do is find a way to alleviate your discomfort. You could try:

  • Apply heat to the back of your neck.
  • Take a nap in a quiet place.
  • Neck muscles that are tight and uncomfortable should be massaged.
  • Take naproxen or ibuprofen, which are over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines.

If things don’t work, your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications:

  • Muscle relaxants on prescription
  • Carbamazepine and gabapentin are anti-seizure medications
  • Antidepressants
  • Nerve blocks and steroid injections are both options. A nerve block, which your doctor may use to diagnose your disease, can also be used as a short-term treatment. To achieve control of your pain, you may need two to three doses spread out over several weeks. It’s not unusual for the condition to resurface at some point, necessitating another round of injections.

An operation is uncommon, but it may be necessary if your pain does not improve or returns despite various therapies. Surgical procedures may include:

  • Decompression of the microcirculation. By locating and correcting blood vessels that may be pinching your nerve, your doctor may be able to ease discomfort.
  • Stimulation of the occipital nerve. A neurostimulator is a device that your doctor uses to transmit electrical pulses to your occipital nerves. They can aid in the blocking of pain signals to the brain.

The condition of occipital neuralgia is not life-threatening. The majority of people find that sleeping and taking medicine help them to feel better. However, if your pain persists, consult your physician. They’ll want to examine if there’s another issue causing your discomfort.