Occipital Headaches

What is an occipital headache (neuralgia)?

  • Occipital neuralgia is a common cause of headache in which the nerves that run from base of the cervical spine up through the scalp, called the occipital nerves, are inflamed or injured. The pain typically starts at the base of the skull by the nape and may spread to the area behind the eyes and to the back, front and side of the head.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  1. Occipital neuralgia can cause intense pain that feels like a sharp, jabbing, electric shock in the back of the head and neck. The pain often is described as migraine-like and some patients experience other symptoms common to migraines and cluster headaches. Other symptoms include:
    1. Aching, burning and throbbing pain that typically starts at the base of the head and goes to the scalp
    2. Pain with neck movement
    3. Pain felt most often on one side of the head, but may also affect both sides of the head
    4. Pain behind the eye
    5. Sensitivity to light
    6. Tender scalp

What are the treatment options?

  • Apply heat to your neck
  • Rest in a quiet room
  • Massage tight and painful neck muscles
  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen or ibuprofen
  • Occipital Nerve Blocks
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