Occipital Nerve Injections
Occipital nerve blocks are minimally-invasive, state-of-the-art pain management techniques to block the pain signals sent from the for occipital nerves (nerves in the skull/head). When the pain management specialist inhibits or blocks the signal, patients will no longer experience the chronic discomfort they were feeling prior to starting pain management treatment.
Pain relief with occipital nerve blocks can last for several months, depending on the patient. Common conditions treated with an occipital nerve block may include:
- Chronic migraine
- Episodic migraine
- Tension-type headaches
- Occipital neuralgia
The block is generally administered via an injection intended to reduce inflammation and swelling of the tissue around the occipital nerves. These nerves provide sensation to the back of the head, to the top of the head and behind the ears.
There are two occipital nerves that may be causing pain:
Greater Occipital Nerve. Found at the top of the spinal cord through the scalp, the nerves are located deep within the muscles surrounding the spine and neck.
Lesser Occipital Nerve. Originating from the second and third cervical nerve roots, the lesser occipital nerve travels through the muscles near the cervical spine and becomes superficial over the inferior nuchal line of the skull.
How is an Occipital Nerve Block Performed?
An occipital nerve block can be performed in an office setting and the procedure is relatively quick and easy. The patient is either seated or lying down and the procedure is conducted without full sedation. A local anesthetic may be applied to the skin above the occipital nerve to be targeted to avoid pain or discomfort during the procedure.
A fine needle is inserted until it is sufficiently near the nerve, and then steroids and local anesthetics are injected to lower the inflammation and block the transmission of pain signals to the brain. This helps to lower the sensation of headache pain. The pain management specialist will likely keep the patient in the office for a bit of time for monitoring.
Results from an Occipital Nerve Block
The pain relief experienced by an occipital nerve block varies in every patient. For some, it may be instantaneous, but for others the relief doesn’t come for a day or more. Certain patients may need two injections in quick succession to get the optimal result, while others may go months without needing another injection.