Occipital Nerve Block

If you suffer frequent headache pain, an occipital nerve block could help diminish that pain. 

 

Having an occipital nerve block can reduce inflammation and swelling around the occipital nerves which are located on the back of the head, just above the neck area. An occipital nerve block consists of an injection of a corticosteroid or other medication around the greater and lesser occipital nerves.  

As many as 5 percent of the worldwide population suffer from chronic headaches. While other therapies may be considered for headache pain before an occipital nerve block, pain which does not respond well to other therapies may benefit from this procedure. Conditions which will most often respond to this treatment are:

  • Tension headaches
  • Chronic or episodic cluster headaches
  • Chronic or episodic migraines
  • Occipital neuralgia

Pain starting at the back of the head, close to the neck, which then radiates throughout the entire skull, is the type of pain which is most likely to respond to an occipital nerve block. This type of block halts the signals of pain being sent to the brain, resulting in weeks or months of headache relief.   

The Occipital Nerve Block Procedure

An occipital nerve block is considered a minimally invasive, generally safe procedure, which is typically performed in a pain clinic or a doctor’s office. You will be seated, or will be lying down for the procedure, which is usually done with local anesthetic. The area of the skin above the targeted occipital nerve will be numbed, then a very thin needle will be introduced until it reaches the nerve area. Corticosteroid drugs are then injected, reducing inflammation and interrupting pain transmissions. 

If your occipital nerve block is a success, numbness may be felt around the injection site. How long it will take for your pain to completely subside varies greatly, depending on the patient. For some, the pain relief is immediate, while it may take several days for the pain to disappear for others.  If pain relief is garnered from the procedure, another block may be scheduled within a few weeks to prolong the pain relief.  

Potential Side Effects of Occipital Nerve Blocks

While there are rarely any serious complications associated with this procedure, you may potentially experience a hematoma, slight bleeding where the needle was inserted, an adverse reaction to steroids, or an adverse reaction to the local anesthetic (nausea, sensory abnormalities, chest discomfort or acute headache). Very rarely, facial palsy can result from an occipital nerve block, however this usually resolves within a few hours. 

Are you unable to control your headache pain? 

Contact Our Seattle Interventional Pain Management Specialists

We understand that severe and chronic headache pain can be excrutiating. At Seattle Pain, our primary goal is to relieve your pain and improve your quality of life. We believe in treating the whole patient – and not just the injury. You do not have to live in pain. Call us today at 253-944-1289 or complete a contact form today. 

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