Occipital Nerve Block

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Occipital Nerve Block

An occipital nerve block is a procedure where your doctor injects a combination of local anesthetic (numbing medication) and steroid in the back of your head. This is usually done to treat chronic headaches caused by an irritation to the nerve in the back of your head. The occipital nerve block procedure should give you quick relief from this type of headache.

What Does an Occipital Nerve Block Treat?

An occipital nerve block treats different types of head pain, including:

Occipital neuralgia: If you have a headache that starts at the base of your skull and goes around one side, up to your forehead, temple, and the eye, it may be caused by irritation of your occipital nerves. Your occipital nerves branch off from your spinal cord at the base of your skull. Pain that comes from irritation of these nerves is called occipital neuralgia.

Migraine Headaches: An occipital nerve block can also help headaches that aren’t directly caused by nerve irritation. Your occipital nerves may act as transmitters of pain signals that cause migraines. Blocking the signals from your occipital nerves may therefore remove the pain associated with them.

Cluster Headaches: Cluster headaches are one of the most painful types of headaches. They occur in clusters, or cyclical patterns. Cluster headaches may wake you up in the middle of the night. They cause intense pain around one eye on one side of your head.

Diagnostic Injection: An occipital nerve block can also be used to diagnose other issues. It can be hard to tell the difference between pain that starts in your occipital nerves and pain that comes from another part of your spine. An occipital nerve block can help your doctor determine exactly where your pain is coming from and create a plan for more targeted therapy.

How is an Occipital Nerve Block performed

After Your Procedure

The local anesthetic will wear off in about 4 hours and it may take a few days for the steroid to start working and have pain relief. After your occipital nerve block, you can take over-the-counter pain medicine such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. You can also take any pain medicine your doctor has prescribed for you. Call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
If the occipital nerve block doesn’t provide any pain relief for you, your doctor will work with you to find other treatment options.

Potential Side Effects

Side effects from an occipital nerve block are usually temporary and go away within 6 to 8 hours. Side effects can include:
If you have diabetes, the steroids used in the occipital nerve block can cause your blood sugar levels to be elevated for up to 2 weeks after the injection. Check your blood sugar more often than usual for the first few days after your injection. If it’s elevated, contact the doctor who treats your diabetes about what you should do.

How Long Will an Occipital Nerve Block Last?

There’s no way to predict how long an occipital nerve block will last. It varies for each person. Some people experience pain relief that lasts for months. For others, it’s not effective or lasts only a few days. If you experience relief but it’s short-lived, you may want to try again.

There’s a limit to how many steroid injections you should have. Your doctor will talk to you about how often you can have them.

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