Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia

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    Often, there is little you can do for someone with occipital neuralgia. One way you can help is to make sure the person your caring for is sticking to their treatment plan and communicating any changes or complications to their doctor. Keep in mind that the pain caused by occipital neuralgia can be excruciating, and people who suffer from the condition may live in fear of an oncoming attack.

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    A Diagnostic Radiology, answered on behalf of
    Occipital neuralgia is a headache disorder due to irritation of one of the occipital nerves in the back of the head. The pain typically is located in the upper neck and back of the head. It can radiate up the scalp toward the eye or ear. The pain is frequently described as sharp and stabbing or electrical in nature. There may be chronic dull upper neck pain or stiffness of the neck muscles. The pain tends to be one sided but can be bilateral.
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    The main symptom of occipital neuralgia is severe pain in the back of your head and scalp. It is often described as an excruciating headache. More specifically, pain symptomatic of occipital neuralgia can occur in your neck, behind your ears, behind your eyes, and sometimes, in your forehead. The pain is often described as  being like an electric shock; it may also be sharp or throbbing. Usually, only one side of the head or scalp is affected. People with occipital neuralgia may also find that their eyes are more sensitive to light and their scalps are tender.

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    You have a pair of occipital nerves running from the back of your neck to your scalp. When one of these nerves gets damaged or becomes aggravated, it can cause occipital neuralgia. The cause of the condition can be hard to determine, but the following factors may play a role:

    • pinched nerves;
    • neck injury or injury to the back of the head;
    • tight muscles;
    • osteoarthritis;
    • gout;
    • surgery;
    • infection;
    • diabetes;
    • tumors;
    • swelling of blood vessels.
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    Medications can treat occipital neuralgia by providing pain relief, helping your muscles relax, and numbing your occipital nerve. When the pain is particularly bad, antidepressants and muscle relaxants may help ease it. Anti-inflammatory medications can also help by reducing inflammation, which can take pressure off your occipital nerve. In some cases, your doctor may use an occipital nerve block to inject anesthetic and steroids into the nerve, numbing it. For a more permanent solution, your doctor can inject a toxin into your occipital nerve to kill it.

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    Your risk for occipital neuralgia can increase if you have a head or neck injury. Sleeping with your neck in an awkward position or any other activities that may result in a pinched occipital nerve can also increase your risk. Those with conditions such as diabetes, gout, and osteoarthritis may have an increased risk of developing occipital neuralgia as well.

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    If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of occipital neuralgia, it is a good idea to see your doctor. There are a number of reasons you may be experiencing the pain, and your doctor can help you determine whether occipital neuralgia is to blame. If it is occipital neuralgia, there are treatment options available, and the sooner you try your options, the sooner you may find some relief.

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    Occipital neuralgia is diagnosed using an occipital nerve block. A doctor will use a needle to inject a local anesthetic and steroids into the base of your occipital nerve. If the pain goes away, a diagnosis of occipital neuralgia will be made and a more permanent solution can be discussed.

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    If tight muscles are causing your occipital neuralgia, you may not need any medication or invasive procedures to treat the problem. In fact, a good massage or some rest could be all the treatment you need. Application of heat is effective for some people as well.

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    Managing your occipital neuralgia on a daily basis can be difficult. The pain is often severe, and episodes generally occur spontaneously. To get relief, you will need to work closely with your doctor to find the right treatment. Medications can help many manage the pain, and in some cases, a procedure may be able to fix your occipital neuralgia all together.