Occipital neuralgia

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

About

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 icon plus

    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
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    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.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    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.
     

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020 7079 4344
This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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