Occipital Nerve Blocks
Colorado Chronic Headache Treatments
Chronic headaches affect around 5% of the global population. The occipital
nerve block is a simple office procedure that is used to treat and control
chronic head pain.
What types of headaches are treated using the occipital nerve block?
Occipital nerve blocks have shown effectiveness with many types of headaches.
Throbbing pain, sharp pain, and burning pain all respond to the occipital
nerve block. Pain of this nature is often associated with the occipital
nerves. The occipital nerve block can treat:
- Episodic migraine
- Chronic migraine
- Tension-type headaches
- Chronic cluster headaches
- Occipital neuralgia
How does the occipital nerve block work?
Occipital neuralgia is associated with dysfunction or damage of the occipital
nerves, which are located along the back portion of the head. The occipital
nerve block can help control the pain at the posterior scalp, which stops
it from radiating throughout the skull. The block stops/inhibits the disproportionate
and chronic pain signals that are sent from the occipital nerves to the
brain. The occipital nerve block offers long-term pain relief.
Do I need to prepare for the occipital nerve block?
You will first meet with the doctor who asks questions about your condition,
takes a medical history, inquires about your medications, and asks about
allergies. After a physical examination, the doctor may request more brain/head
imaging scans. Once the doctor goes over the procedure risks and benefits
with you, he has you sign a consent form. If you are taking any medications
that thin the blood, you should hold them for 5-7 days before your procedure.
How is the occipital nerve block done?
The doctor will perform the occipital nerve block at the clinic. The doctor
first cleans the back of the head using an antiseptic. The skin and tissues
are numbed using an injectable local anesthetic, or a topical agent is
used. Once numb, the doctor positions a fine needle into the scalp and
positions it near the targeted nerve. There are four nerves that are blocked,
so several injections are made. After the needle is removed, a small Band-Aid
When will I notice pain relief?
When an anesthetic is injected onto the nerves, pain relief may be immediate.
Sometimes, the doctor injects a corticosteroid, which starts working in
2-5 days. The amount of pain relief varies from person to person.
What can I expect after the occipital nerve block?
Immediately after the injections, you will remain in the office for around
20 minutes. Expect some mild tenderness at the injection sites. The back
of your scalp will be sore for 1-2 days. While rare, slight bruising and
bleeding may occur. You are permitted to drive yourself home after the
occipital nerve block. The block will not interfere with your normal routine
and function. The full effects of these injections may not occur for several weeks.
Does the occipital nerve block work?
In a recent study involving patients with chronic cluster headaches, the
efficacy rate was 72%, with almost half of the patient reporting complete
pain relief. In addition, the occipital nerve block effects lasted for
an average of 504 days. In another study, CT-guided greater occipital
nerve block was done for patients with occipital neuralgia. The clinical
success rate was 86%, and the pain relief duration was an average of 9 months.