Do you suffer from severe head pain at the base of your skull, or behind your eyes? When related to other symptoms, like blurry vision or light sensitivity, it could be a sign of occipital neuralgia. Treating this painful condition can be difficult because it is often misdiagnosed as typical migraine or headache pain. If you’re looking for information on how to treat occipital neuralgia pain, consider a mix of complementary therapies, such as chiropractic or massage, along with interventional treatments, like occipital nerve blocks. In this post, we cover 21 occipital neuralgia treatments that range from at-home options to surgical options for severe cases.
What is occipital neuralgia?
Occipital neuralgia is a form of sharp and shooting head pain that radiates from the top of the spinal cord to the scalp. It is caused by injury or damage to the occipital nerve, or compression to the nerve root. There are two types: greater and lesser. EPainAssist.com explains that the greater form is:
“A common type of posttraumatic headache, but is also seen in patients without injury. The pressure, aching, stabbing, or throbbing pain may be in a nuchal-occipital, temporal, parietal, frontal, periorbital, or retro-orbital distribution. The headache may last for minutes or hours to days and can be unilateral or bilateral.”
Lesser, on the other hand, refers to pain that occurs laterally over the head. The following image shows where the occipital nerve is situated in relation to the spinal cord, as seen from the back of the skull.
How to treat occipital neuralgia comes down to understanding its causes. These are many. Occipital neuralgia causes may include:
- Injury after car accident
- Overly tight neck muscles
- Compressed nerves in the neck, due to osteoarthritis or other conditions
- Vasculitis, or blood vessel inflammation
- Overuse injuries caused by keeping the head in a down or forward position
Occipital neuralgia symptoms include:
- Chronic headaches
- Pain behind the eye, on one side of the head
- Blurry vision
- Dental pain
- Migraine symptoms
- Sensitivity to light
- Scalp tenderness
- Pain and tight muscles when moving the neck
How to treat occipital neuralgia, a video primer
For more information about this condition and an introduction to basic treatments, check out the video below. We’ll discuss each of these options in detail below.
Living with occipital pain