Publication date November 21, 2023

Occipital Neuralgia Trigger Points, Symptoms and Treatments

If you are someone who is suffering from occipital neuralgia, then you know how painful and distracting it can be.

Occipital neuralgia is a condition in which the nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord up through the scalp, called occipital nerves are injured. At this time you may experience intense pain in the back of your head or the base of your skull.

Back neck pain

Source: Gateway Pain

Many people often confuse it with a migraine or other types of headache because the symptoms can be similar. But when it comes to treatment, they are very different. 

There are many treatments available for occipital neuralgia, including medication, surgery, and home treatments, such as heat and occipital massage. In this blog post, we will cover everything from occipital neuralgia trigger points and symptoms to various types of treatments. 

What is Occipital Neuralgia? 

Occipital neuralgia is a type of chronic headache disorder in which patients usually experience nerve pain in the back of their head. 

The pain is generally around the base of your skull, but you can also feel it in your neck, behind your ears, or even in your eyes. Occipital neuralgia can be caused by many different things, including trauma, inflammation, tumors in the neck, or even muscle tension. 

Pain in this condition typically comes from irritation of the nerves that exit the base of the skull and run up the back of the head. 

These nerves go between the suboccipital muscle group, and when these muscles become restricted or tight, they often cause increased compression of the nerves.

What is Occipital Neuralgia Trigger Points? 

There are several occipital neuralgia trigger points, but ultimately it happens because of the pressure or irritation to your occipital nerves. It could be because of any injury, or tight muscles that entrap the nerves. Also, many times, even doctors can’t find the cause for it. 

The following are some causes of occipital neuralgia: 

  • Injury 
  • Trauma to the back of the head 
  • Neck tension or tight neck muscles
  • Tumors in the neck
  • Infection
  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis of the cervical spine
  • Inflammation of the blood vessels

What are the symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia? 

The most common symptom of occipital neuralgia is an intense, aching pain in the back of your head and the neck muscles. You may experience constant pain or it can come and go. 

But does occipital neuralgia cause dizziness too?  Yes,  sometimes it can also cause dizziness. Also, it can worsen when you move your head or when you press on the affected area of your head. 

Here are a few other symptoms of occipital neuralgia:

  • Headaches
  • Burning
  • Neck pain
  • Throbbing
  • Shoulder pain
  • Intermittent shocking 
  • Jaw pain
  • Eye pain
  • Ear pain

Common Medical Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

There are multiple types of medical treatments available for occipital neuralgia. Including:

1. Medication

You can get over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, which can help relieve the pain. But, if over-the-counter medications don’t work, you need to speak to your doctor so that they can prescribe stronger pain medications.

2. Steroid Injections

Today, many occipital neuralgia patients go for steroid injections as a standard treatment option for occipital neuralgia. They help in inflammation reduction and pain by directly focusing on the affected nerves. 

Despite the fact that they are generally safe and effective, steroid injections can cause side effects too, such as temporary numbness or soreness at the injection site. For this reason, you should always use it sparingly and only under the supervision of your healthcare provider.

3. Surgery

Generally, surgical treatment is not the first line of occipital neuralgia treatment. But, it can be recommended by health providers if other treatments have been unsuccessful in relieving the pain.

Home Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

Aside from the above given medical treatment you can also apply home treatments. So instead of searching for the best painkiller for occipital neuralgia, you can simply follow some home treatments to relieve the pain: 

1. Apply Heat or Ice Therapy

You can apply ice therapy to reduce local inflammation and pain. Simply tuck an ice pack under the base of your skull as you lie down. 

But, after evaluating many reviews, I believe you may find more relief using heat therapy, such as an electric heating pad. When you apply heat to the affected area of your head, local blood vessels are dilated, and blood flow to the neck increases, which can reduce muscle tightness and pain. 

2. Give yourself an Occipital Neuralgia massage

The neck massage is one of the effective home treatments for occipital neuralgia. Apply gentle pressure from your fingertips occipital neuralgia muscle knot at the base of the skull. 

It will help calm tight muscles and release tension. You can also place a rolled towel under your neck as you lie down on your back. The pressure from the towel can offer a gentle massage. If the massage aggravates your pain, stop immediately.

3. Chin tucks Exercise regularly

You can also consider physical therapy for occipital neuralgia. Sometimes a poor posture stressing the nerves can be also one of the occipital neuralgia trigger points.

The chin tuck exercise stretches the muscles and connective tissue in the painful part and strengthens the muscles that align your head over your shoulders. 

To do this exercise, simply stand with your upper back against a wall, feet shoulder-width apart, face forward, tuck your chin down, and pull your head back until it aligns with the wall. 

Try to bring your head back in a straight line without tilting your head back or nodding forward. Hold the stretch for at least 5 seconds before resting and repeating it for 10 times. 

But again If this exercise increases pain, stop immediately.

Hopefully, these easy occipital neuralgia treatments at home will be helpful, and in case these are not working for you. You should visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible. 

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