Occipital neuralgia affects about three out of every 100,000 people each year. It is a rare type of chronic headache. The occipital nerves run from the top of the brain and spinal cord to the scalp. The term “neuralgia” refers to pain in the distribution of a nerve. This pain is experienced as a severe headache.
Should you be suffering from occipital neuralgia, Sydney residents can contact the team at CURA Medical Specialists now to see one of our qualified neurologists.
Our goal is to assist you in organising the best diagnostic testing, performing the highest quality clinical assessment and connecting you to the most up-to-date, evidence-based treatments. We offer the support and expertise to help you through what can be a difficult time.
Occipital neuralgia is a condition that causes severe pain in the back of the head and neck. Occipital neuralgia is caused by irritation, inflammation, injury or compression of the occipital nerves, which are the nerves that run from the base of the skull to the top of the spine.
People often confuse it with a migraine or other types of headache because the symptoms can be similar. But treatments for those conditions are very different, so it’s important to see your doctor to get the correct diagnosis.
Occipital neuralgia pain differs from other types of
headaches, the pain is felt in the back of the head.
- Trauma to the head or neck
- Side effects of certain medical procedures
- Injury to the head or neck
- Virus such as shingles
- An autoimmune disorder, such as lupus
- A pinched nerve in the neck
- Neck tensions, or tight muscles in the neck or shoulders
- Reduced blood supply to the nerve
There are many symptoms a patient can experience if
suffering from OC, nausea being one of them.
The most common symptom of occipital neuralgia is severe pain in the back of the head and neck. The pain is often described as sharp or shooting. The pain typically spreads to the top of the head. It can be debilitating and make it difficult to perform everyday activities. The pain typically.
Pain symptoms can be triggered by head or neck movements.
Medicines commonly used to treat occipital neuralgia include centrally-acting analgesic agents and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Physical therapy can help to relax, stretch and strengthen the muscles in the head and neck, and it can also help to relieve pain.
Injections of steroids and/or anaesthetic agents under medical imaging guidance or other medications into the head and neck muscles can also be helpful.
Other methods that may provide relief include applying heat packs to your neck and resting.
Living with occipital neuralgia
Occipital neuralgia can be a debilitating condition that makes it difficult to perform everyday activities.
A patient with occipital neuralgia should consult a doctor for the correct treatment; with treatment, most people can live active, normal lives.
There are a few things that you can do to help manage your occipital neuralgia and keep the pain under control:
- It is important to stay on top of the pain medication. Make sure to take the medications as prescribed by the doctor. Heat/cold therapy can also help relieve pain.
- It is important to avoid any activities that may trigger the pain. If certain activities worsen the pain, avoid them as much as possible.
- Make sure to keep your doctor updated on how you are doing.
Pain that is not well controlled may need medication adjusted or may need to try a different treatment option.
The consultation cost will vary depending on the service enquired, appointment duration, medicare availability and other factors. Please use this calculator to get an estimate of your cost on the day of your consultation.
Why Choose Us
Our expert specialists, Dr Winters and Dr Ang are both appointed staff specialist neurologists at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and are experts in occipital neuralgia and other neurovascular disorders. They are two of a handful of interventional neurologists that exist in Australia, so you can be assured you are in good hands with CURA Medical Specialists.
Dr Hugh Stephen Winters
MBChB (Auckland) FRACP (Neurology)
Dr Hugh Stephen Winters is a specialist in general neurology and the nervous system a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians with specialised training in neurology with four additional years of training in interventional neurology. Dr Winters is highly trained in the use of minimally invasive, image-guided techniques to diagnose and treat diseases such as stroke, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and aneurysms.
Dr Timothy Ang
MBBS, FRACP (Neurology),
Head of Committee for CCINR
Dr Timothy Ang is a neurologist and interventionist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney. Dr Ang is a trained specialist who uses cutting-edge medical imaging tests to diagnose and treat neurovascular and neurological diseases and his interests include idiopathic intracranial hypertension, headache, migraine and aneurysms.
Below you can find our most frequently asked questions about occipital neuralgia
Medications and including steroid injections can assist in calming down the inflamed nerves and reducing the pain. In rare circumstances, should this not work surgery, botox or radiofrequency ablation may be needed as a long-term solution.
People suffering from this condition often feel continued pain that starts from the base of the head and goes up on one or both sides of the head.
Occipital neuralgia is not a serious or life-threatening condition, but the pain can make it a very difficult condition to live with.
Occipital neuralgia ‘attacks’ can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few hours.
It may be advisable to see a neurologist if over-the-counter medications and/or physiotherapy have been unable to reduce the pain or discomfort.
There is no best treatment, but rather several treatments patients can try and determine which works best for them. Patients may want to begin with less invasive treatments such as medications, rest, physical therapy or steroid injections. Should these not work, surgery can be considered.
Occipital neuralgia is believed to be caused by muscle tension in the neck muscles or irritation of some of the spinal roots and/or peripheral nerves including the occipital nerve – although there is no definitive evidence for either situation.
PLEASE NOTE: This information is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment. It is aimed at presenting a perspective only and is not a substitute for a prescription or clinical assessment. Anyone experiencing a medical condition should consult their doctor.