Clinical Services

Occipital Neuralgia Treatment in Dulles & Leesburg VA

Occipital Neuralgia is a condition that causes headaches and migraines that originate in the upper neck and back of the head. This condition occurs when there is irritation in the occipital nerves, the group of nerves that run from the upper-neck to the back of the head. In addition to migraines and headaches, sufferers may feel:

  • Burning or throbbing pain in the back of the head
  • Pain on either side of the head
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Stiffness or decreased neck mobility

How is Occipital Neuralgia Diagnosed?

The doctor will perform a physical examination of the back of the neck where it connects to the skull. Tenderness in the area of the occipital nerve is the main indicator for this diagnosis. The physician will sometimes choose to perform a nerve block in order to see if that provides relief from symptoms. In order to eliminate other potential underlying issues, an x-ray, CT scan or MRI may also be performed.

How is Occipital Neuralgia Treated?

Depending on the severity of the patient's symptoms, treatment types can vary. Ultimately, the main goal of the treatment is to eliminate pain and discomfort caused by occipital neuralgia and the doctor will choose the best method on a case-by-case basis.

Nonsurgical Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

A nonsurgical treatment plan will typically be made before any invasive measures are performed. In most cases, a doctor will recommend:

  • Limiting strenuous physical activity
  • Apply a heating pad to the area
  • Massage therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Anti-convulsant medication
  • Nerve block injections

Surgical Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

Surgery is considered when the pain is chronic and severe and all nonsurgical methods have been explored.

  • A Rhizotomy may be performed to destroy the nerve root in order to eliminate pain.
  • During a Neurolysis, the surgeon will apply heat, freeze the nerve or apply chemicals to block transmission.
  • Decompression surgery may be chosen to correct cases where the nerve is pinched.