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Pain At Back Side Of Head & Neck - Occipital Neuralgia
April 10th ,2024

Pain At Back Side Of Head & Neck - Occipital Neuralgia

If you've been experiencing severe, piercing pain in the back of your head and neck, you might be suffering from a condition called occipital neuralgia. This painful disorder involves the occipital nerves, which run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp. When these nerves become inflamed or injured, they can cause intense, debilitating pain that can significantly impact your quality of life.

Understanding Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is often misdiagnosed as a migraine or another type of headache because the symptoms can be similar. However, the treatments for these conditions differ greatly, making it crucial to receive an accurate diagnosis from your doctor.

The primary symptom of occipital neuralgia is a sharp, jabbing, or electric shock-like pain in the back of the head and neck. This pain can be severe and may occur on one or both sides of the head. Other common symptoms include:

  • Aching, burning, and throbbing pain that starts at the base of the head and radiates to the scalp
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain when moving the neck

Causes of Occipital Neuralgia

Several factors can contribute to the development of occipital neuralgia. Some of the most common causes include:

  1. Injury or trauma to the back of the head
  2. Tight neck muscles or neck tension
  3. Osteoarthritis
  4. Tumors in the neck
  5. Cervical disc disease
  6. Infection
  7. Gout
  8. Diabetes
  9. Blood vessel inflammation

Diagnosing Occipital Neuralgia

To diagnose occipital neuralgia, your doctor will begin by reviewing your medical history and asking about any injuries you may have sustained. They will also perform a physical examination, during which they will apply firm pressure to the back of your head to see if they can reproduce your pain.

Your doctor may administer a nerve block injection to help confirm the diagnosis. If the injection provides relief, it's likely that occipital neuralgia is the cause of your pain. In some cases, your doctor may order additional tests, such as lab tests or an MRI scan, to rule out other potential causes.

Receiving an accurate diagnosis is essential for determining the most effective treatment plan

Treating Occipital Neuralgia

The primary goal of treatment for occipital neuralgia is to alleviate pain. Initially, you can try the following self-care measures:

  • Applying heat/ice fomentation to your neck
  • Resting in a quiet room
  • Massaging tight and painful neck muscles
  • Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen or naproxen

If these methods do not provide relief, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications, including:

  1. Prescription muscle relaxants
  2. Antiseizure drugs, like gabapentin or carbamazepine
  3. Antidepressants
  4. Nerve blocks and steroid injections

Nerve blocks, which may be used to diagnose occipital neuralgia, can also serve as a treatment option. Your doctor may suggest radiofrequency ablation of occipital nerve for long term pain relief. 

Living with Occipital Neuralgia

While occipital neuralgia is not a life-threatening condition, it can cause significant discomfort and disruption to your daily life. Most people find relief through a combination of rest and medication. However, if your pain persists, it's essential to communicate with your doctor. They will want to investigate further to determine if another underlying issue is contributing to your pain.

In addition to medical treatment, there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help manage your symptoms:

  1. Practice good posture to reduce strain on your neck and head.
  2. Engage in gentle neck and shoulder stretches to alleviate muscle tension.
  3. Use a supportive pillow to maintain proper alignment while sleeping.
  4. Manage stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation.
  5. Stay active with low-impact exercises, like walking or swimming, to promote overall health and well-being.

Remember, everyone's experience with occipital neuralgia is unique. Work closely with your healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and helps you achieve the best possible outcome.

In Conclusion

Occipital neuralgia can be a challenging and painful condition, but with proper diagnosis and treatment, it is possible to find relief. By understanding the symptoms, causes, and available treatment options, you can take an active role in managing your condition and improving your quality of life.

If you suspect that you may be suffering from occipital neuralgia, don't hesitate to consult with your doctor. With the right care and support, you can overcome this painful disorder and reclaim your life.

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