Occipital neuralgia

Our multi-disciplinary neuroscience team at HCA UK can diagnose occipital neuralgia and provide long-lasting pain relief

Enquiries & Appointments

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Occipital neuralgia causes intense, shock-like pain in the back of the head, as well as migraine-type symptoms. It's often caused when the occipital nerve, which travels along the neck and up to the base of the skull, becomes trapped. Routine activity such as brushing the hair or lying with your head on a pillow can trigger an attack.

Need to know

Symptoms of occipital neuralgia include:

  • episodes of stabbing pain, which last seconds to minutes
  • pain on one side of the head
  • strange sensations along the scalp, back of the head and neck
  • the area may feel extremely tender
  • there may be a dull ache in between attacks
Your consultant will discuss your symptoms with you to help make a diagnosis. CT scans of the spine and an MRI scan may be ordered — this is to examine the area in more detail. Often, arthritis between the first and second vertebrae in the neck can trap the occipital nerve, causing pain.

Anti-inflammatory medication can often relieve the symptoms of occipital nerve pain. Physiotherapy and massage can also relieve the pain.

Nerve blocks are another option. Here, a neurologist injects local anaesthetic into the occipital nerve at the back of the head. This manages pain for up to three months.

Occipital nerve stimulation is another type of treatment. This is where electrodes are placed against the nerves through a small operation and a battery-powered generator is implanted under the skin of your chest. This sends mild electric currents to the back of your head, blocking the pain signals.

Our Occipital neuralgia locations

SPECIALIST UNIT  London Neurosurgery Partnership

SPECIALIST UNIT London Neurosurgery Partnership

78 Harley Street W1G 7HJ London
The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
The Portland Hospital

The Portland Hospital

205-209 Great Portland Street W1W 5AH London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.