Occipital Nerve Block

An occipital nerve block is a minimally invasive intervention in which a combination of anesthetic medicine and steroids is injected into your scalp near the occipital nerves. It is done to treat various kinds of head and neck pain.

The occipital nerves are located at the base of the skull and can sometimes become inflamed or irritated, leading to headaches or neck pain. Occipital nerve block can provide quick relief from the pain and the results can be temporary or long-lasting based on the underlying cause of your pain. 

Understanding Occipital Nerves

The occipital nerves are a group of three nerves located at the base of your skull, specifically in the occipital region (the back of your head). The  three occipital nerves include:

  • Greater occipital nerve
  • Lesser occipital nerve 
  • Third occipital nerve

Each person has two of each kind of occipital nerve—one for each side of their head. They emerge from the upper three cervical spinal nerves: C1, C2, and C3.

Occipital nerves help in sensory perception in certain parts of your head, including your scalp, the back of your head, and some parts of your neck. These nerves can get irritated, inflamed, or damaged due to various health conditions and injuries. This can cause pain in or around your head, such as near your eye or as headaches.

Occipital nerve blocks can provide relief by numbing occipital nerves and reducing inflammation. It can also be beneficial for headaches that are not directly caused by irritation of the occipital nerves.

In some cases, the occipital nerves can transmit pain signals to the brain. By blocking these signals from the occipital nerves can provide relief from the pain. 

Conditions Treated with Occipital Nerve Block

An occipital nerve block can treat various headache disorders and neck and head pain related to injuries. These include: 

  • Occipital neuralgia: This occurs when your occipital nerves become inflamed and can cause sharp throbbing pain behind one eye or in the back of your head.
  • Migraines: These are severe headaches in which you experience throbbing, pulsing head pain on one side of your head. The pain can last for hours and disrupt your daily routine. 
  • Cluster headaches: These are intense headaches that occur in cyclical patterns. They cause excruciating pain on one side of the head and can wake you up from sleep due to the intensity of the pain.
  • Whiplash: It is a neck injury that occurs due to sudden, forceful movement of the head backward and then forward. The injury can result in neck pain, stiffness, and headaches.

Occipital Nerve Block Procedure

Occipital Nerve Block is a quick procedure that typically takes about 15 to 30 minutes. The procedure starts by applying a local anesthetic to numb the area at the back of your head just above the neck, to minimize any discomfort from the injection.

A needle is inserted near the occipital nerves using ultrasound guidance for accuracy. Once the needle is placed properly, the medication is injected around the occipital nerves.

After the injection, you may be observed for a short period to ensure there are no immediate complications. Pain relief can sometimes be experienced within minutes, however, it may take several days for the full effects to develop.

It's common to experience some temporary soreness or numbness at the injection site, but this typically resolves within a day or two. The duration of pain relief varies from person to person and may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months.

Side Effects of Occipital Nerve Block

Occipital Nerve Block can lead to several side effects, including:

  • Pain, redness, and swelling at the injection site
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Allergic reaction

These side effects are mild and usually resolve within a couple of days. However, if you experience severe or persistent side effects, take immediate medical advice. 

Occipital Nerve Block Treatment in Tualatin and Newberg in Oregon

At Spinal Diagnostics, we focus on spinal and neuropathic pain management. Our team of specialists are recognized leaders in clinical research and offer you updated diagnostic processes and treatment options.

If you want to learn more about occipital nerve blocks, call us at 503-885-1515, schedule an appointment online, or visit our locations in Tualatin and Newberg, Oregon. 

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