An occipital nerve block is a procedure used to treat different types of pain in the head. It is used to treat headaches in the back of the head, migraines, cluster headaches, tension, and chronic headaches. This treatment has been found to be effective in patients with pain on one side of the head.
Two optical nerves run through the back of head and scalp. They provide feeling to the back and top of the head. These nerves can be numbed with an injection of medication to relieve pain. The procedure for patients is done in the office.
The patient lays down on an examining table. The back of the head is swabbed with alcohol and the doctor will look for the nerve site. A needle is injected into the scalp that has steroids and a mixture of local anesthetic. The numbing usually occurs quickly in the patient. It reduces pain and often wears off in hours. The steroids take a few days to work and may reduce pain for several months.
After the first injection the pain may return and the head will be sore for a few days. Patients should rest or take it easy for several hours after the treatment. The doctor will often suggest applying ice to the treated area. Most patients can usually go to work the next day.
After the first treatment, patients may return for further injections. Injections are often scheduled every week or two until symptoms have improved. Most patients need more than one injection in order to experience relief.
Some side effects are bleeding, swelling, headache, and nausea.
It is hard to predict if the treatment will help with the pain or headaches. Often a treatment is the best way to find out if the occipital nerve is involved with the problem. It is a safe procedure and the doctor will determine if the patient is a suitable candidate for the treatment.
In severe cases, an implanted peripheral nerve stimulator may be helpful.