What is Occipital Nerve Block?

Chronic headaches have become a global health issue, with 3% to 5% of the world’s population coping with headache afflictions. Included in this group are people who suffer from chronic migraines, cluster headaches, tension headaches, and occipital neuralgia. Occipital neuralgia patients report symptoms of spastic throbbing pain within the greater and lesser occipital nerves that are located in the back of the head above the neck.

An occipital nerve block is a non-surgical treatment option for patients suffering from chronic headaches. Many people suffering from headaches report chronic pain that originates at the base of the skull, which then resonates internally throughout the neck and head. Occipital nerve blocksassist in “blocking” the occipital nerves from relaying the feeling of pain to the area in the back of the head. The treatment offers patients pain relief and reduced inflammation of the nerves in that region for up to a few months at a time.
Many advances in chronic headache treatments have emerged as the numbers of those affected are on the rise. Occipital nerve block has been one of the most beneficial options offered to patients who are experiencing consistent and disabling head pain.

How is an Occipital Nerve Block Performed?

An occipital nerve block is a relatively safe procedure that does not require surgery. This type of treatment can be completed very quickly with minimal discomfort or pain. In preparation for the procedure, a physician will clean and apply a numbing agent to the skin in the area of the injection. During the treatment, a local anesthetic and steroid are injected into the patient’s scalp at the base of the neck where the occipital nerves are. A very thin needle will be used by the physician to administer the steroid injection.
The side of the head where the injection was inserted will quickly go numb if the nerve block was applied to the correct area. The physician monitors the patient for a brief period of time after the procedure to assess the amount of pain relief they are experiencing. Pain and inflammation relief can occur almost instantly for some patients, whereas others may not feel relief for two to three days after the injection.

Conditions Related To Occipital Nerve Block

Occipital nerve blocks have been found to be effective for patients suffering from cluster headaches, chronic migraine headaches, tension headaches, and occipital neuralgia. These types of headaches commonly cause pain at the back of the head and base of the neck where the occipital nerves reside. Patients with these types of afflictions respond well to occipital nerve blocks. Success rates for occipital nerve block are greater in patients whose chronic pain has been recently diagnosed rather than a long-term ailment. People who experience sensations of pounding, throbbing, shooting pain, or burning pain in the back of the head have also found this procedure effective.
This type of procedure is an alternative treatment option for patients who have not found relief from a daily opioid treatment. Patients who have had head injuries or blunt trauma to the back of the head have also benefited from occipital nerve blocks.

Conclusion

An occipital nerve block is an out-patient treatment option for people suffering from chronic headache pain and inflammation. The procedure has the most success for patients recently diagnosed with a headache condition. Treatment has also been successful for patients who sustained injury to the back of the head. Occipital nerve blocks can provide pain relief up to a few months per injection. If patients do not experience a decrease in pain after the procedure, a second occipital nerve block may be recommended by the physician.

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