Understanding Occipital Nerve Blocks
Do you experience pain at the back of your head or on the right or left side of the skull? Some patients complain of zapping, shooting, or burning pain. If this describes your condition, you may benefit from occipital nerve blocks. This procedure can provide temporary relief from nerve-related pain.
During an occipital nerve block, Dr. Lewis injects pain-relieving medicine near the nerve bundle at the base of the skull. The procedure lasts only a few minutes and is a non-invasive outpatient treatment. Many patients experience immediate pain relief that may last as long as the numbness remains in effect.
What Conditions Does an Occipital Nerve Block Treat?
This procedure treats chronic head pain. Here are conditions that typically benefit from occipital nerve blocks:
- Migraines: This neurological condition causes intense headaches, typically on one side of your head. You may also have dizziness, nausea, and mood changes during a migraine.
- Spondylosis: Spondylosis or osteoarthritis of cervical facet joints is related to the aging process. This pain comes from the breakdown of bones and discs in your neck.
- Cluster headaches: These headaches bring short bursts of pain that recur in a series, often when seasons change.
- Occipital neuralgia: This condition causes shooting pain on one side of your neck, behind your ears, or at the back of the head. Damage to the occipital nerves causes this condition.
What to Expect During the Occipital Nerve Block Procedure
During the occipital nerve block procedure, you lay face down on a table. We apply a local anesthetic just above your neck in the back of your head. Using a fine needle, Dr. Lewis delivers the injection to your occipital nerve.
As the pain medication takes effect, the area becomes numb. Frequently, patients notice an improvement within 15 minutes. The procedure takes a few minutes and you can go home when you finish. However, you should arrange for a ride home. If you feel up to it, you can resume driving the following day.
How Long Does the Pain Relief Last?
The steroids injected near the occipital nerve may take several days to take full effect. The longevity of the treatment varies from patient to patient.
After the Procedure
Many patients receive more than one occipital nerve block. However, it’s rare to receive more than three occipital nerve blocks within six months. If symptoms continue, you may need another type of treatment. It’s important to note that receiving frequent injections increases the chances of side effects.
Other treatments used for migraines and head pain include the following:
- Relieving pressure on the nerve
- Cutting a nerve
- Killing nerve cells
- Installing an occipital nerve stimulator to reduce pain
Contact the Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic to find out more about occipital nerve blocks and other treatments for headaches. Call us at (601) 366-1011 today to make an appointment. We’ll find a solution that works for you.