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Signs You May Have Occipital Neuralgia

September 01, 2021 | Occipital Neuralgia

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Occipital neuralgia is a nerve condition that only affects around 1 out of every 100,000 people. And because it’s not well-known or understood, many individuals don’t realize they have it and fail to get the treatment they need.Dr. Neel Amin and our team want to help take the guesswork out of your health. Here, we take a deeper dive into occipital neuralgia and explore the common signs and symptoms associated with it, so you can take control of your health and get treated quickly.

Causes of occipital neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia occurs when the occipital nerves, which run from the tip of your spinal cord up through your scalp, become inflamed or injured. This typically stems from an underlying medical condition, such as:

  • Tight neck muscles
  • Chronic neck tension
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Neck tumors
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Cervical spinal stenosis
  • Infection
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Blood vessel inflammation

Though it’s uncommon, there are cases where you may develop occipital neuralgia after sustaining a traumatic head or neck injury. Sometimes, occipital neuralgia manifests without a known cause. Here’s a closer look at the early indicators of occipital neuralgia.

Warning signs of occipital neuralgia

The first warning sign of occipital neuralgia is almost always sharp, throbbing, or burning head pain. But because this type of pain is associated with other conditions like migraines, occipital neuralgia can be hard to diagnose.

However, there are some ways to differentiate occipital neuralgia head pain from regular headache and migraine pain. For example, occipital neuralgia pain tends to begin at the base of your head and radiate up toward the top of your scalp. It usually occurs in episodes of intense, piercing pain that lasts for a few minutes or seconds and then subsides, leaving you feeling tender.

You may also notice the pain is localized on one or both sides of your head.

Knowing and identifying these other warning signs of occipital neuralgia can help us quickly and accurately diagnose and treat your symptoms.

Neck pain

The same nerve irritation that causes your head to pound can also present in your neck. Many individuals with occipital neuralgia experience pain when they move their necks.

Ear and eye pain

Another telltale sign of occipital neuralgia is pain behind the ear and/or eyes.

Extreme sensitivity

Because the occipital nerves run through your scalp, it’s not uncommon to experience extreme scalp tenderness — even the slightest brushing of your hair can trigger severe pain. Many living with occipital neuralgia also note increased sensitivity to light and sound.

Your treatment options

If you’re struggling with painful symptoms, or you suspect that your symptoms point to occipital neuralgia, it’s important to make an appointment with Dr. Neel Amin as soon as possible.

He conducts a thorough review of your health history and symptoms, performs a series of physical and neurological exams, and orders an MRI or CT scan to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

To confirm his diagnosis, Dr. Neel Amin may perform a nerve block. If the anesthetic provides quick pain relief, it verifies that your occipital nerve is the source of your pain. It’s also a positive sign that other interventional treatments may be effective in alleviating your symptoms. Some of the treatments and therapies we recommend most often for occipital neuralgia include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Botox® injections
  • Steroid injections
  • Occipital nerve block
  • Occipital nerve stimulation
  • Spinal cord stimulation
  • Radiofrequency ablation
  • Nerve decompression

Don’t spend another day wondering about your pain. Schedule a consultation with Dr. Amin today by calling our office or requesting an appointment online at our Fort Lauderdale, Florida, office.