Occipital Neuralgia – that’s a new one

As some of you may know, soon after our new couch was delivered, I began to experience severe neck and head pain. Well, that pain has not subsided, it has gotten worse over time. I am trying to avoid sitting on the couch, but it’s hard to do when the ground or a kitchen chair are your only other options!

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I have all of the symptoms of occipital neuralgia, and I will be asking my pain doctor about this next week when I see her. I’m hoping to get some extra injections on the areas of my neck and skull that are in severe pain and causes brutal headaches. I have been wanting to see my massage therapist and chiropractor, who both work at the pain clinic that my doctor is at, and know my case pretty well, but they only work Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I’m in class those days. Sigh. I’m sure a massage and adjustment for my neck would work wonders right now.

So what exactly is occipital neuralgia? Here is some info!

Occipital neuralgia is a neurological condition in which the occipital nerves — the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck up through the scalp — are inflamed or injured. Occipital neuralgia can be confused with a migraine or other types of headache because the symptoms can be similar.

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia can cause very intense pain that feels like a sharp, jabbing, electric shock in the back of the head and neck. Other symptoms of occipital neuralgia may include:

  • Aching, burning, and throbbing pain that typically starts at the base of the head and radiates to the scalp
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain when moving the neck

Painful areas in Occipital Neuralgia-labelledCauses of Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is the result of compression or irritation of the occipital nerves due to injury, entrapment of the nerves, or inflammation. Many times, no cause is found.

There are many medical conditions that are associated with occipital neuralgia, including:

  • Trauma to the back of the head
  • Neck tension and/or tight neck muscles
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tumors in the neck
  • Cervical disc disease
  • Infection
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Blood vessel inflammation

Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

Treatment depends on what is causing the inflammation or irritation of the occipital nerves. The first course of action is to relieve pain. There are a number of things you can try to get relief, including:

  • Apply heat to the neck.
  • Rest in a quiet room.
  • Massage for tight and painful neck muscles.
  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen or ibuprofin

Some natural treatments for Occipital Neuralgia (and you know I’m all for these!):

  • Chiropractic adjustment
  • Cranial osteopathy
  • Nutritional therapy
  • Homeopathy
  • Acupuncture

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If these self-care measures don’t work, your doctor may prescribe the following medications to treat occipital neuralgia pain:

  • Prescription muscle relaxants
  • Anticonvulsant drugs
  • Antidepressents
  • Short-term use of local nerve blocks and steroid injections; it may take 2-3 injections over several weeks to get control of your pain. It is not uncommon for the pain to return at some point and to need a repeat series of injections.

I’m assuming this is happening because of neck tension and tight neck muscles and they are irritating my spinal nerves. Crossing my fingers I find relief soon, because this is rather painful, frustrating, and annoying.

Feel free to send me a message or leave a comment if you experience, or have experienced this before as well.

I’m off to bed – another chemistry exam tomorrow and my body needs some rest!

Xoxo Lex

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7 thoughts on “Occipital Neuralgia – that’s a new one

  1. I suffer from this, although never called this before or not that I recall as mine stems from a whiplash injury sustained 13 years ago. It comes and goes in waves, sometimes I go months headache free then a cinema trip or even a sneeze can trigger off a chain of fresh pain and headaches for a period of time. It is a perfect definition of the pain I get though. Due to the other meds I take I cannot take over the counter headache meds so it is a case of grin and bear it, well it was until reading this, now I have a fresh number of alternatives to try! Hope the exams are going well!

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  2. I was just diagnosed with ON this weekend after being misdiagnosed for a long time for a myriad of symptoms culminating in seizure type activity and mental confusion.. I went to the ER because I was scared… I am relieved to have an answer and hope that my doctor will begin appropriate treatment ASAP.

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  3. This started for me last winter very mild, my rheumatologist first diagnosed it, it would come and go. This winter it is much worse. Headaches everyday, waking me a night, sharp stabbing pain and behind one eye and just debilitating. I like to think I have a good threshold for pain, but this is too much. What helps me the most is massage therapy, it worked better than any drug I would use.I found a therapist who knew exactly what I needed and she has been a Godsend. If anyone has not tried this, I urge you to do so. I still have episodes and some daily neuralgia, but thankfully not waking me at night. I am hoping with the warmer weather to see an improvement even more.This article is excellent and exactly the areas I experience on my right side.

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