Occipital Headaches Information..


Occipital headaches, or occipital neuralgia as it's called, can be 24/7 painful.

My wife's been blessed (not) with this type of headache, and we've been there, and done that trying to find help. How many "migraine"sufferers do you think really have occipital neuralgia, but are being treated for the wrong headache??

This type of headache gets its name from the occipital nerves, which are located where the neck, and spinal column connect. They then make their journey up the scalp, at the back of the head.

Symptoms of occipital neuralgia

Occipital headaches can be described as:

  • Throbbing
  • Piercing
  • Feeling like an electric shock hitting on the upper neck, and back of the head.

Now move to the front of the head, and they can feel the same as in the back of the head but behind the ears, and eyes. As in migraine, occipital neuralgic usually affects just one side of the head.

The forehead may hurt, along with the scalp, with that side of the scalp being sore to the touch. Just like migraines, light can be painful, and rest may be needed. You can see why occipital headaches are called migraines, and treated as migraines. It's hard to tell how many are diagnosed with JUST MIGRAINES, when in all reality, they suffer with occipital neuralgia.

Causes of Occipital headaches can be numerous!!

Although in some cases, a trigger may never be found, the following could be the culprit:

  • Inflammation, or some infection in your neck can cause occipital headaches.
  • Nodules or tumors in the neck could cause occipital neuralgia.
  • Probably what you're doing now (holding your head forward, and down to long) for periods of time, called poor posture.
  • An accident or a blow to the back of the head, and whiplash can also achieve this pain.
  • Compression of the occipital nerve when it leaves the spine. If this nerve is pressing against something, my wife's headache specialist says you can have a constant headache. Of course you'll be checked out, but medical conditions such as inflammation of the blood vessels, gout, and even diabetes can contribute to this type of headache.

How are occipital headaches diagnosed?

Occipital neuralgia mimics migraines so closely, you may have been diagnosed by a headache specialist with migraines, maybe chronic migraines.

First you have to meet the criteria for occipital neuralgia. You have to have headaches for quite a few months, in most cases by the time you finally have the right diagnose, it may be years, and the medicines prescribed just aren't working. Also, the area in the occipital nerve is sore to the touch, and hurts when pressed on.

Treatment for occipital headaches!!

If nerve blocks have helped, occipital neuralgia has to be given thought, but a headache specialist will have to make that call. You may have had these nerve blocks, and been discouraged by the result.

My wife did, and I think the doctors didn't know exactly how to administer them in the right location. Her present headache specialist gave her the first one, and it took just about all of her pain away!!!!! Made me wonder about the others.

Keep in mind that these are invasive procedures. All else has failed.

One type of treatment for chronic headaches involves the use of subcutaneous implanted neurostimulator leads, known commonly as occipital nerve stimulation (ONS), in the occipital area.

Headaches that haven't responded to medicines such as migraines, chronic daily headaches, cluster headache, hemicrania continua, and occipital neuralgia, have been studied, and found responsive to stimulation in the suboccipital region.

Another treatment for occipital headaches, that we know something about, is the procedure preformed on the occipital nerve.

This procedure is called a decompression of the occipital nerve. This procedure , as we were told, frees up the occipital nerve, by moving it away from what may be pressing against it.

And it works. The nurses said that some actually have no headache after it's done, where others have great relief. Different relief for each one, but all are helped.

Here's what Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia says about the greater occipital nerve

The greater occipital nerve is a spinal nerve, specifically the medial branch of the dorsal primary ramus of cervical spinal nerve. This nerve arises from between the first and second cervical vertebrae, along with the lesser occipital nerve. It ascends after emerging from the suboccipital triangle obliquely between the inferior oblique and semispinalis capitis muscle. It then passes through the trapezius muscle and ascends to innervate the skin along the posterior part of the scalp to thevertex. It innervates the scalp at the top of the head, over the ear and over the parotid glands.

Disorder of this nerve is one of the causes of cervicogenic headaches, referred to as occipital neuralgias. Incorrectly, migraine headaches are the common diagnosis when occipital neuralgia occurs. Headaches are a symptomatic representation in occipital neuralgia, also complicated by pain on the back and top of head, including above the eyebrows and behind the eye.

A common site, and usually misdiagnosed area of entrapment for the greater occipital nerve is at the obliquus capitis inferior muscle.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Occipital Neuralgia

  • Is there evidence of a nerve entrapment?
  • What is the cause of occipital neuralgia?
  • Are further diagnostic tests needed?
  • What treatment options are there?
  • Can you prescribe medication to reduce the inflammation and spasms?

Don't give up. If the pain continues it may lead to depression which will only make matters worse.

Our last page is about migraine surgery, and our next page is also on headache surgery.

More info if you have occipital headaches.

Thanks for reading

WebMd on migraine surgery

Go to home page from occipital headaches, or our first page on botox for migraines.

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Look at the products below and read the reviews. They are all sold on Amazon for  

Even pillows for migraines help tremendously when the pain originates from the neck area. Herbs and Vitamins such as the ones mentioned above are helpful for some sufferers. Most are very inexpensive, and you may find something that will work for your type of headache. All can be found by searching Amazons many headache products. 

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