Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is a type of headache caused by inflammation or injury to the occipital nerves in the neck, causing severe pain in the back of the head and neck.

Occipital neuralgia doesn't just affect your nerves—it touches every part of your life, every part of you. It's a persistent companion, often an unwelcome one, and we understand how it can make you feel alone and misunderstood. But we want you to know you're not alone.

Our team is made up of highly skilled professionals who are not only experts in the field of nerve pain, but also compassionate listeners who truly care about your well-being. Our goal is to help you manage your pain, regain your strength, and rediscover the joys of living that neuralgia may have overshadowed.‍


The basics

Occipital Neuralgia is a painful condition that affects the nerves running from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp. The pain is often described as sharp, shooting, or burning and can be felt on one or both sides of the head. This condition is more common in women and can affect people of any age but is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 50.

Occipital Neuralgia can be caused by trauma or injury to the head or neck or by underlying medical conditions such as arthritis or diabetes. With proper treatment, many people are able to manage their symptoms and live relatively pain-free.

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The presentation of Occipital Neuralgia is characterized by a distinct pattern of symptoms that affect the back of the head, neck, and scalp. People with this condition may experience a range of symptoms, including:

  • Intense, burning, or shooting pain that radiates from the back of the head to the top of the scalp
  • Aching pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain that worsens with movement or position changes
  • Numbness or tingling in the scalp
  • Muscle spasms in the neck and shoulders

These symptoms can be intermittent or constant and can range from mild to severe. They can also be triggered by certain activities or movements, such as turning the head or bending forward. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical advice to determine the underlying cause and receive appropriate treatment.

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Therapies & treatments

Orofacial Therapy

Orofacial Therapy provides specialized interventions for individuals with facial pain conditions, such as occipital neuralgia.


Medications are often the first line of treatment for occipital neuralgia. Finding the right medication, or combination of medications, may take a little experimentation, and is best done with the guidance of a Pain Specialist. Medication examples include:

Anticonvulsant Medications

Anticonvulsants, such as gabapentin and pregabalin, are used to treat nerve pain. They work by reducing abnormal electrical activity in the brain and spinal cord that can contribute to pain.

Antidepressants Medications

Antidepressants, such as tricyclic antidepressants and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are also used to treat chronic pain. They work by altering the levels of certain chemicals in the brain that affect pain perception.

Muscle Relaxant Medications

Muscle relaxant medications help to relieve spasms in the muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders to relieve tension-related pain caused by occipital neuralgia.

Nerve Blocks

Nerve blocks involve injecting a numbing medication directly into the affected nerve to provide short-to-medium term pain relief.

Pulsed Radiofrequency

Pulsed radiofrequency is a minimally invasive procedure that uses electrical stimulation to interrupt pain signals along the occipital nerve, providing pain relief.

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Self-care strategies

Heat Therapy

Applying heat to the affected area can help to reduce pain and muscle tension. A warm compress or a heating pad can be used.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy can help to reduce inflammation and pain. A cold compress or ice pack can be applied to the affected area for 10-20 minutes at a time.

Stress Management

Stress can trigger or exacerbate occipital neuralgia symptoms. Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to manage stress levels.

Sleep Hygiene

Getting sufficient sleep is crucial for managing pain and overall health. Establishing a regular sleep routine, avoiding caffeine and electronics before bedtime, and creating a comfortable sleep environment can all help promote restful sleep.


Engaging in regular physical activity, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can help to reduce pain, improve flexibility, and increase strength. Even small amounts of movement can make a difference in managing pain symptoms.


Poor posture can contribute to tension and pain in the neck and head. Maintaining good posture throughout the day can help to reduce pain and tension.


Massaging the neck, shoulders, and scalp can help to reduce muscle tension and alleviate pain. A professional massage or self-massage can be effective.

Dietary Changes

Making changes to your diet can help to manage pain associated with occipital neuralgia. Eating a healthy, balanced diet that is low in sugar and processed foods and high in fruits, vegetables, and lean protein can help to reduce inflammation and promote overall health.

Relaxation Techniques

Engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation, such as spending time with loved ones, practicing hobbies, and getting regular massages, can help to reduce stress and improve mood.

Support System

Building a support network of family, friends, and healthcare professionals can help to provide emotional support and practical assistance in managing pain. Joining support groups and seeking out mental health professionals can also be helpful in managing pain-related stress and improving overall quality of life.

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Occipital Neuralgia

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