How to treat neuralgia of the occipital nerve, symptoms and causes

According to statistics, every person during his life at least once a month suffers from a headache. It can be caused by a variety of causes - stress or increased intracranial pressure. If the pain sensations are localized in the nape of the neck, then we are talking about neuralgia of the occipital nerve. Most often this problem is associated with traumatic injuries, hypothermia or pathological disorders in the cervical spine.

Description of the disease

This disease is caused by irritation of the back of the occipital nerve. The pathological process can affect the large and small spinal cord nerve. They pass in the region of the second and third vertebrae of the neck.

If irritation or compression of the roots of these nerves occurs, pain occurs that adversely affects the quality of life of people with a similar diagnosis.

If is observed, the neuralgia of the large occipital nerve of , the discomforting sensations are localized in the region of the occiput and mastoid processes.

If develops a small nerve neuralgia , the pain syndrome is observed behind the sternocleidomastoid muscle in the region of its upper third - this place is called the Kerer point.

Causes of the disease

This pathology can have a primary nature, that is, appear without any prerequisites, or be secondary - in this case, painful sensations are associated with pathological processes in the neck region.

The appearance of the secondary form of the disease is caused by various factors :

  • Osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. This pathology is the cause of degenerative dystrophic changes in the intervertebral discs. As a result, the roots that form the occipital nerves are affected.
  • Prolonged static muscle tension resulting from improper position of the body. This can be the result of a long sitting at the computer or driving a car. Also, severe physical exertion or stressful situations can lead to static stress.
  • Traumatic neck injuries that cause compression of the nerve roots.
  • Subcooling.
  • Arthritis of the joints of the cervical spine.
  • Joint damage due to gout.
  • Severe forms of viral diseases.
  • Infectious diseases that cause damage to the nervous tissue - this may be encephalitis or meningitis.
  • Oncological diseases of the cervical spinal cord or brain.
  • Endocrine diseases - in particular, diabetes mellitus.
  • Inflammation of blood vessels.
  • Autoimmune diseases that result in the immune system destroying nerve cells, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and lupus erythematosus.
  • Tuberculous spondylitis.

In addition to neuralgia of the occipital nerve, a person can also suffer from neuralgia of the facial nerve, which in itself is also very unpleasant.

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Symptoms of the disease

The main sign of this disease is headache.

Most often, this symptom has a rather specific character, which indicates the presence of neuralgia of the occipital nerve:

  • Pain sensations occur suddenly, when you touch the occipital nerves or the corners of the neck.
  • As a rule, the pain appears on one side of the neck and head. Although in some cases there is a bilateral nerve damage.
  • Pain syndrome is localized at the nape, at the bottom of the neck or behind the ears. Also, pain can appear in the eye area and above them.
  • Discomfortable sensations appear in case of contact with the scalp.
  • Painful sensations are similar to the so-called chamber, and they end, too, unexpectedly.
  • The patient feels an increased sensitivity to bright light.
In the case of neuralgia of the small occipital nerve, pain is most often located behind the ears, so the disease is often mistaken for ear pathology. With neuralgia of the great occipital nerve, there are characteristic sensations in the nape of the neck. In addition, in this situation, pains often appear in the eye area.

Diagnostic methods

In order to prescribe adequate treatment, a correct diagnosis must be made. This is done on the basis of examination and complaints of the patient.

For the most effective treatment, it is necessary to establish the cause of neuralgia of the occipital nerve, and this requires a comprehensive examination.

It includes:

  • Computed tomography - with this study it is possible to obtain a layered image of the tissues of the cervical spine, which makes it possible to judge the presence of pathological changes.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging - with this procedure it is possible to study the condition of soft tissues and bones at the site of the lesion.
  • Radiography of the occipital head and cervical vertebrae - this study provides an opportunity to assess the state of bone structures in this area.

In addition, the patient needs a consultation of an orthopedist and a neurologist. If there is a need, it is sent for additional examinations.

The photo shows which part of the head is involved in neuralgia of the occipital nerve:

Treatment of

How to treat neuralgia of the occipital nerve, can only be solved by a doctor. Self-medication is not worth it.

Traditional methods of

In order to cope with this disease, medicinal treatment or surgery can be used. The goal of conservative therapy is the alleviation of pain.

For this purpose, the following procedures are prescribed:

  • Heat treatment of the affected area.
  • Passive rest.
  • Massage.
  • Use of muscle relaxants.
  • Reception of anticonvulsants - finlepsin, gabapentin.
  • Admission of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs - ibuprofen, sulindac, naproxen, ketarolac.
  • Reception of muscle relaxants for the removal of muscle spasms - sirdalud, midokalm.
  • Reception of antiepileptic drugs for the elimination of very intense pains - gabapentin, carbamazepine, clonazepam.
  • Admission of antidepressants - amitriptyline, duloxetine.

One of the most effective ways to combat this disease is the method of nerve blockade.

To this end, anti-inflammatory steroid agents are used, in particular:

  • Kenalog;
  • hydrocotrizone;
  • methyred;
  • dextamethasone.

This treatment is highly effective. Literally a few minutes after the administration of these drugs, neuralgia will disappear, and all subsequent seizures will be much weaker. But constantly take these medications can not, because they can cause very unpleasant consequences for health.

How the procedure of nerve blockade is performed:

Physiotherapeutic procedures also bring tangible results. These include acupuncture, spinal traction, therapeutic gymnastics, special massage.

In addition, you can use methods that have a warming effect - ultrasound and laser therapy. No less important is the manual therapy, in the course of this technique the specialist manages to restore the normal position of the joints, which significantly improves the effectiveness of treatment.

However, all of the listed methods are considered temporary, because they do not fight the underlying cause of the disease. To achieve a truly sustainable result, one should cure the underlying pathology that led to the development of neuralgia.

If the disease is chronic and accompanied by intense pain, surgery may be prescribed. It is divided into two types:

  • Neuro-stimulation - in this case the nerve leads the wiring through which electrical impulses are passed. This procedure allows you to block pain. This method has no side effects and is associated with minimal damage to the body.
  • Microvascular decompression - this operation is performed with the help of microsurgical equipment. In the course of the procedure, the compression of the nerves is deactivated, which makes it possible to eliminate pain.


For the treatment to be more effective, rubbing can be used. Massage is done at the points of exit of the nerves, which can be determined from the pain points.

If neuralgia of the small occipital nerve of is observed, the area behind the mastoid process should be massaged.

If has a large occipital nerve , it is necessary to rub the place located in the middle between the mastoid process and the upper cervical vertebra.

The massage of the occipital part of the head assumes the following sequence of actions:

  • Grab like stroking.
  • Billy-shaped squeezing.
  • Rubbing:
  • - rectilinear;
  • - zigzagging;
  • - circular movements that are performed by the pads of four fingers;
  • - circular movements that make phalanxes of bent fingers;
  • - circular beak-shaped movements;
  • - circular movements performed by the bump of the thumb.

After 3-5 sessions, you can massage with the addition of other techniques. In particular, it is necessary to conduct rubbing along the cervical spine. Perform:

  • straight rubbing with four-finger pads;
  • circular rubbing with the pads of four fingers;
  • circular rubbing of the bent fingers of each hand with the phalanxes alternately.

It is also necessary to perform grinding and vibration. In addition, you need to do a massage of the sternocleidomastoid muscles.

After performing the massage you need to perform exercises for the hands and head. Each session should last about 15 minutes. The total number of sessions is 12-14.

Folk remedies

Before using any decoctions, lotions or other methods of traditional medicine, you need to consult with your doctor. These funds can only serve as a supplement to the main therapy.

There are a number of effective ways that will help reduce or even completely eliminate the uncomfortable sensations in neuralgia of the occipital nerve:

  • Herbal baths. To begin with, prepare the infusion based on peppermint, thyme, oregano. To do this, take a tablespoon of each herb and pour the mixture with a glass of boiling water. Then strain the composition and add it to the bath. Water procedures should last about 10 minutes. The course of such treatment on average is a month.
  • Infusion of lumbago open. You need to take 2 teaspoons of dry herbs and add a glass of boiling water. During the day you need to take inside 50 ml of infusion.
  • Compresses. You need to grind vegetables - onions, potatoes, pickles, pour them with diluted wine vinegar and insist for two hours. Such compresses should be applied to the forehead and the occiput. Do this twice a day, keep for an hour.

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Consequences of

If you do not go to a specialist in time, the pain will progress, and the occipital nerves may collapse altogether. In addition to intense pain, you can get more serious consequences - for example, loss of vision.

Permanent pain syndrome occurs as a consequence of the transformation of neuralgia into neuropathy. In this condition, the soft tissues that surround the nerve become very susceptible and sensitive. As a result, the neck curves.

Elimination of the consequences of this condition is quite laborious. Moreover, correcting the curvature is not always possible, which leads to disability.


To avoid this neuralgia, you must adhere to a healthy lifestyle and properly distribute physical activity. It is advisable to protect yourself from injuries and hypothermia. If the work is monotonous, you need to organize the workflow competently to find time for warm-up.

Often neuralgia is a complication of the flu, and therefore it is necessary to take this disease very seriously and treat it in time. Also important is proper nutrition, and special attention should be paid to taking vitamins of group B.

Neuralgia of the occipital nerve is a serious enough disease that can lead to quite dangerous health consequences. To prevent complications, it is very important to seek the help of a specialist if the first signs of the disease occur.

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