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What Is an Occipital Nerve Block?

Occipital nerve blocks are often used to treat migraines.
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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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An occipital nerve block is a minor surgical procedure in which an injection of anesthetic and steroids is used to numb the occipital nerve, which is located at the base of the skull. This procedure is used as a treatment for occipital nerve pain caused by nerve disorders or injury and sometimes as a treatment for migraines and other types of headaches. An occipital nerve block can provide relief from nerve pain within approximately 24 hours of the procedure.

There are two greater occipital nerves located on either side of the head. These nerves extend from the top vertebrae of the neck at the base of the skull and cover much of the back and top of the head. These parts of the head can be affected by neuralgia, or nerve pain, when one of the greater occipital nerves is stimulated in an abnormal manner. Typical symptoms of this abnormal stimulation include burning, stinging or shooting pains in the affected area. An occipital nerve block is carried out to lessen the frequency and severity of neuralgia. In some cases, this procedure also can be used to treat migraines and cluster headaches.

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During the occipital nerve block procedure, the patient lies face-down on an examination table or might sit down in a chair with his or her head tilted forward to expose the neck. The injection site is sanitized with antiseptic, and the neck area is numbed with an anesthetic injection. Finally, the site is injected with a steroid medication to reduce nerve inflammation and provide long-lasting pain relief. In some cases, the anesthetic and the steroid might be administered in the same injection. The entire procedure takes less than 30 minutes, but patients usually stay in the clinic or hospital for one or two hours to ensure that there are no complications.

Once the occipital nerve block medication has been administered, initial pain relief generally occurs within 15 to 20 minutes. This initial pain relief is temporary, however, because it is a result of the anesthetic. The anesthetic will wear off within a few hours. The steroid medication generally begins working within 24 hours and provides pain relief that can last for weeks or months.

The injection of anesthetic and steroid medications can cause some side effects. The most common minor side effects are swelling, bruising and soreness at the injection site. These can be treated at home with the application of ice or heat, and with pain medication if needed. The cold or heat source should not be placed directly against the skin, in order to prevent skin damage or irritation. Normal everyday activities can be resumed whenever the individual feels ready, but it is best to avoid strenuous activity for several days.

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anon161945
Post 4

I received my Occipital Nerve injection today. There was a little burning but other than that it was not as bad as I thought it would be. The freezing has gone and I am swollen in the middle of the spine where the skull meets the neck, my head is a little sensitive and my neck is quite stiff, which all seems normal following the procedure. Oh yeah, and while resting I am having very vivid dreams. I will write a post procedure in a few days to inform people who are anticipating this procedure. The information I came across before was much appreciated.

GigaGold
Post 3

If you are experiencing head pain which recurs on a consistent basis, it is important to ensure that you are truly aware of what is going on in your body. Web resources like webmd are available for the general public to check symptoms which may indicate that there is more going on than just a simple headache. If you or a friend is suffering head pain and headaches on a consistent basis, doing the research and looking for the right solutions available to you will be important.

ShadowGenius
Post 2

@BigBloom

As more medical terms and education in medicine and human biology are being made available to people on the internet, I hope that we will be seeing an increase in people interested in specializing in various diseases and parts of the body. The world needs to be aware that there is a high demand for specialists everywhere, and that the medical community is expanding to meet growing needs and possibilities for recovery throughout the world.

BigBloom
Post 1

The occipital nerve serves as a sort of transmitter between the nerves of the backbone and of the head. Disturbances in this nerve can lead to significant discomfort in terms of recurring migraines and difficulty in normal functioning. As these headaches increase in severity, it is important to be sure that the best medical measures are being pursued. Specialists in migraines and issues with the occipital nerve are in high demand and sought after. This can be a promising career.

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