Occipital neuralgia is a neurological condition in which the occipital nerves, the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck up through the scalp, are inflamed or injured. Occipital neuralgia can be confused with migraine or other types of headache, because the symptoms can be similar. But occipital neuralgia is a distinct disorder that requires an accurate diagnosis to be treated properly.

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia can cause very intense, continuous or intermittent aching, burning, jabbing, stabbing or electric shock-like pain to the back of the head. It can be on one or both sides of the head.  The pain frequently radiates to the top or front part of the head, as well as to the ear.

Causes of Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia can be caused by trauma, injury, inflammation, or compression of the occipital nerve somewhere along its course.  Many times no cause is found.

Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

The first course of treatment is to take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, like Aleve (Naprosyn) or Ibuprofen (Motrin).  In addition, at times muscle relaxants are prescribed.  If there is no improvement then a short course of steroids would be beneficial if there are no contradictions.  At times, the patient is placed on a prophylactic medication such as antidepressants or anti-convulsant drugs. In refractory cases occipital nerve block is recommended.

If you think you may have occipital neuralgia, make an appointment with your doctor.  For treatment to work, it is very important that you receive an accurate diagnosis.