Now Accepting Patients. Click Here to Schedule.

Nerve Blocks

What are Occipital Nerve Blocks?

Occipital Nerve Blocks are medical procedures designed to alleviate chronic pain associated with the occipital nerves, which extend from the top of the spinal cord to the scalp. During the procedure, a local anesthetic and possibly a steroid are injected into the area around the greater and lesser occipital nerves.
This injection helps reduce inflammation and block pain signals from reaching the brain, providing relief from various types of headaches and neck pain.

Reasons to Get an Occipital Nerve Block

This procedure is helpful for many reasons, such as relieving pain from tension headaches or cluster headaches. They also help those experiencing pain due to nerve damage or irritation in the occipital region.

  • Chronic Migraines: Occipital nerve blocks can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of chronic migraines. By targeting the occipital nerves, the procedure helps interrupt the pain signals that contribute to debilitating migraine attacks.
  • Occipital Neuralgia: This condition involves severe pain due to irritation or inflammation of the occipital nerves. An occipital nerve block provides relief by numbing these nerves and reducing inflammation, leading to a noticeable decrease in pain.
  • Cervicogenic Headaches: Headaches originating from cervical spine issues can be effectively managed with occipital nerve blocks. The procedure alleviates pain by blocking the transmission of pain signals from the neck to the head.
  • Cluster Headaches: Known for their excruciating pain and cyclical nature, cluster headaches can be mitigated through occipital nerve blocks. The treatment helps reduce the severity and duration of these headache episodes.
  • Persistent Neck Pain: Chronic neck pain that does not respond to conventional treatments may be alleviated with an occipital nerve block. By numbing the occipital nerves, the procedure offers significant pain relief and improves mobility and quality of life.

An occipital nerve block can also provide relief from chronic pain that is unresponsive to other treatments. It can help reduce the frequency and severity of headaches and improve your quality of life as well by managing debilitating pain conditions.

How Occipital Nerve Blocks Relieve Pain

The relief provided by occipital nerve blocks comes from the combination of a local anesthetic and a steroid in the injection. The local anesthetic numbs the area around the occipital nerves, providing immediate pain relief.
The steroid helps to reduce inflammation, contributing to longer-term relief. By blocking pain signals from reaching the brain, the procedure helps interrupt the cycle of chronic pain. Depending on the individual case, the relief can last from a few weeks to several months.

What to Expect After an Injection

After the injection, patients typically experience immediate numbing in the injection area, which might be accompanied by a mild tingling sensation. This results in reduced pain in the occipital region, often leading to a significant decrease in headache frequency and severity.
There may be a temporary increase in pain once the local anesthetic wears off before the steroid takes effect. Follow-up appointments are usually necessary to monitor pain levels and determine if additional injections are needed. Patients will also receive instructions on activity limitations and care of the injection site to prevent complications.

Occipital Nerve Block Side Effects

Getting an occipital nerve block can result in a variety of side effects, most of which are mild and temporary. Understanding these potential side effects can help patients prepare for and manage their recovery process more effectively.

  • Mild Discomfort or Pain at the Injection Site: This is a very common side effect that usually subsides within a few hours to a day. Manage with over-the-counter pain relievers and avoid strenuous activities.
  • Temporary Numbness or Tingling in the Scalp: This occurs as the anesthetic takes effect, typically resolves as the anesthetic wears off. Avoid activities requiring precise coordination or balance until the numbness subsides.
  • Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Dizziness or lightheadedness is often short-lived and can be managed by resting and staying hydrated. Contact your healthcare provider if either of these symptoms persists.
  • Infection or Bleeding at the Injection Site: If you experience these rare symptoms, monitor for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or warmth. Seek medical attention immediately if symptoms occur or if there is excessive bleeding.
  • Temporary Increase in Headache Pain or Neck Stiffness: A temporary increase in pain or stiffness can happen as the body reacts to the injection. Symptoms typically improve within a few days. Follow your doctor’s advice for managing discomfort.
  • Allergic Reactions to Medications Used: In rare cases, you might experience an allergic reaction. Symptoms include rash, itching, swelling, severe dizziness, or difficulty breathing. Seek emergency medical attention immediately if these symptoms occur.

Occipital Nerve Blocks FAQ’s

No, an occipital nerve block is not the same as trigger point injections. An occipital nerve block specifically targets the occipital nerves at the back of the head to relieve headaches and migraines. Trigger point injections, on the other hand, are used to treat muscle pain by injecting medication directly into the trigger points or knots in muscles.

The duration of relief from an occipital nerve block can vary from person to person. Generally, the effects can last from a few weeks to several months. Some patients may require multiple injections over time to maintain relief.

Occipital nerve blocks do not typically cause weight gain. The medication used in these injections is usually a local anesthetic and sometimes a corticosteroid, neither of which are associated with significant weight changes. However, if you have any concerns, it’s best to discuss them with your healthcare provider.

Preparation for an occipital nerve block is usually minimal. Your healthcare provider may advise you to avoid certain medications, such as blood thinners, prior to the procedure. It is also important to inform your doctor of any allergies, medical conditions, or medications you are currently taking.

A good candidate for an occipital nerve block is someone who suffers from chronic headaches or migraines that have not responded well to other treatments. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your medical history and symptoms to determine if this treatment is suitable for you.

The frequency of occipital nerve blocks can vary based on individual needs and response to the treatment. Some patients may require injections every few months, while others may need them more or less frequently. Your healthcare provider will create a treatment plan tailored to your specific condition.

What Our Patients Are Saying...

Picture showing a pain doctor caring for his patient by holding hands.

We are here for YOU.

If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic pain, call us today and let us help you get your life back.