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What Is Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia (ON) is a type of headache that comes and goes quickly, and produces sharp pain in the back of the head near the base of the skull.  The pain of Occipital Neuralgia has been described as feeling like something is stabbing you in the back of the head, sometimes on only one side of the head, other times it can be both sides.

There are instances where this type of sharp, piercing pain can be accompanied by numbness, and also be felt in the neck or behind the ears. Lying down, brushing your hair, or any other type of touch or contact to the head can make the pain worse.  If your pain is a lingering, deep, aching type of pain, it’s likely you’re experiencing something other than ON.

Occipital Neuralgia affects about 3 people out of every 100,000, and typically affects people over 40 years of age, though cases of ON have been reported in younger people.

What Causes Occipital Neuralgia

Some of the underlying conditions that can produce Occipital Neuralgia include head trauma, neck injury, whiplash, tight neck muscles, overexertion, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, infections, gout, pinched nerves, diabetes, blood vessel inflammation.  Those who spend much of their time sitting, standing, lifting heavy items, or who work on a computer are at risk for developing Occipital Neuritis due to improper posture.

Symptoms Of Occipital Neuralgia

  • Sharp, piercing pain that begins at the back of the head
  • Pain can be felt on one or both sides of the head
  • Numbness can also occur
  • Pain can be felt in the neck, behind the eyes, and behind the ears as well
  • Pains can last from a few seconds to a few hours
  • Touch or pressure on the head can make the symptoms worse
  • The pain can feel like migraine pain for those who have experienced Migraines, but typically doesn’t last as long as a Migraine, and there is no nausea, light sensitivity, or aura present.

Occipital Neuralgia Diagnosis

ON can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms present similar to Migraines, Cluster headaches, or other headaches. Also, there is no one test that can be done to diagnose ON.

Your doctor will ask you about your symptom history, your health history, and may touch the painful area(s) to help differentiate ON from other types of headaches.  You doctor may order tests, such as an MRI, a CAT scan, and may refer you to a neurologist or other specialist to rule out other underlying conditions.

Occipital Neuralgia Treatment

Treatment options your doctor will discuss with you for ON include nerve blocks, neck collars, steroids, botox injections, nsaids (advil), ssri meds, physical therapy, or muscle relaxers.  If these options don’t work, your doctor may recommend an injection of local anesthetic in your occipital area that may block the pain for up to 12 weeks.  The most severe recommendation would be surgery.

CranioSacral Therapy For Occipital Neuralgia

CranioSacral Therapy is gentle, and yet greatly effective for those experiencing ON.  Craniosacral Therapy can relieve the underlying tension and strain patterns in your body that are causing your pain.  The most common causes of ON are head and neck injuries or bad posture that cause deep tension patterns in the soft tissue (muscles, tendons, spinal and cranial membranes.  An experienced CranioSacral Therapist can locate and relieve these underlying strain patterns which cause pain.  CranioSacral Therapy can help your body heal more quickly and more completely from a variety of health conditions, including Occipital Neuralgia.

Benefits of CranioSacral Therapy For Occipital Neuralgia

  • Pain relief
  • Better focus
  • Better and longer sleep
  • More energy
  • Increased ability to work
  • Increased well being
  • Guidance on self care to help prevent the strain patterns from returning

As with all therapies and protocols, each person responds differently with the use of CranioSacral Therapy.  Health status, chronic disease, medications, previous illnesses, and previous injuries are all factors in outcomes.  Please call for a complimentary consultation to discuss your particulars and goals.