Occipital Nerve Block
The occipital nerves run from the top of the spine, around the back of the head, and up to the scalp. They process sensory information for the skin located on the upper neck and most of the back and top of the head.
Sometimes these nerves become pinched or aggravated. In other cases, natural process can cause the nerves to fire without an obvious cause. Both instances can result in chronic pain. An occipital nerve block is a procedure designed to relieve this pain.
What is an occipital nerve block?
During an occipital nerve block procedure, a mixture of steroid (anti-inflammatory) and anesthetic (numbing) medication is injected in the back of the head at the site of the aggravated occipital nerve(s).
If you suffer from pain caused by a pinched occipital nerve, known as occipital neuralgia, the medication is effective at reducing inflammation of nearby tissue and relieving pressure on the nerve. Migraines are a common result of the occipital nerves flaring up without being physically irritated. In these cases, an occipital nerve block can block pain signals from the nerves.
An occipital nerve block can be used to relieve pain as well as diagnose other potential medical conditions.
What can I expect during the procedure?
You will be brought into the procedure room and laid face down on a special table. If you are receiving sedation, this will be administered prior to the procedure. You skin will be cleaned at the injection site. A local anesthetic will be applied so you don’t feel any discomfort during the injection.
The physician will guide the needle to the appropriate site at the base of the skull. Ultrasound guidance may be used in some cases. The medication is then injected around the occipital nerves. The nerves are bathed in medication, resulting in pain relief.
The procedure generally takes around 15 minutes to complete.
What can I expect after the procedure?
You will be moved into the recovery area and monitored by a nurse for a short time. An oral sedative may be provided to ease any post-injection discomfort.
We recommend that you take it easy for the remainder of the day after the procedure. You may resume normal activities the next day. You may experience tenderness or aggravated symptoms at the injection site for a few days. Apply ice packs to help with this pain.
The local anesthetic generally wears off within a few hours. Your pain will likely return temporarily until the medication starts working. It may take two weeks for the medication to reach full effect. You may take over-the-counter pain relievers to relieve this pain.
Pain relief from an occipital nerve block is not permanent, and the length and amount of relief can vary from patient to patient. Your provider will review results with you and determine if additional injections or alternative treatments are necessary.
Schedule an appointment with Twin Cities Pain Clinic to discuss if an occipital nerve block can help with your pain.
RELIEVE YOUR PAIN, RENEW YOUR LIFE!