FAQs on Occipital Nerve Blocks
The occipital nerves are located on either side of the neck, primarily underneath the region at the back of the skull. The nerves do not provide motor ability for the patient. The function of the occipital nerve is to provide sensation to the head by transmission of signals. If the occipital nerve becomes inflamed, patients may experience severe pain and episodic headaches. Stiffness of the neck can be a complication, inhibiting the patient\’s ability to freely move their head.
The Occipital Nerve Block procedure is a mixture of local anesthetic and steroid drugs that are injected into the neck at the base of the skull. The purpose of this injection is to numb the occipital nerves in order to block pain signals to the brain from the head.
What is the goal when a patient receives Occipital Nerve Block injections?
The goal of the Occipital Nerve Block injection is to provide the patient relief from chronic, shooting, burning, stinging pain associated with occipital neuralgia as well as migraine, cervicogenic, and cluster headaches, and in so doing to provide the patient with a more comfortable existence rather than constant pain.
Nerve blocks are administered to numb the nerve to provide relief of symptomatic pain and reduce the severity and frequency of headaches. The Occipital Nerve Block procedure is usually performed with the patient lying flat, face down on an examination table. The area to be injected is located by feel and then cleaned with antiseptic solution. The area to be injected is then numbed with a topical anesthetic and then a very thing needle is inserted into the location. The local anesthetic and steroidal drug mixture is then slowly injected into the area. The patient will usually experience an almost immediate, but temporary relief from the local anesthetic, followed by a longer lasting relief provided by the steroid.
The level of relief experienced will vary from patient to patient, but usually everyone that receives the Occipital Nerve Block procedure will experience some level of relief. The duration of the provided relief will also vary from patient to patient with some experiencing relief for several days to others experiencing relief for weeks or months. For some patients that experience relief from the injection they may be recommended to have another procedure that is more permanent and long lasting in order to not have to undergo the injections for extended periods.
What are the risks or side effects associated with Occipital Nerve Block injections?
As with any medical procedure there is some level of risk involved but generally the procedure is safe. Typical side effects can include bruising or bleeding from the injection site, temporary increased level of pain at the injection site until the steroid medication takes effect. There is a small risk of infection at the injection site but this can be minimized by leaving the bandage in place and not rubbing or scratching the area. In rare cases increased pain or nerve damage may result from the Occipital Nerve Block injections, but these are rare.
The Occipital Nerve Block procedure is used to provide relief in patients that are suffering chronic pain due to occipital neuralgia as well as migraine and cluster headaches.
How successful are Occipital Nerve Block injections for the relief of pain?
Most patients that undergo Occipital Nerve Block injections will experience a significant level of relief from the daily pain they suffer, although the level of relief can vary from patient to patient.
The California Pain Network connects those in pain with pain management providers. For the best headache treatment in all of San Diego County, call (619) 500-1573 today!