Occipital neuralgia is a form of headache caused by the occipital nerve which are found in the upper neck at the rear upper part of the head. It can cause pinched nerves, direct trauma, gout, diabetes, infection and inflammation of the blood vessel.
There are two occipital nerves which stimulates the nerve muscle of the two sides of the scalp and the lower back of the head. Occipital neuralgia occurs when these nerves are inflamed or injured and oftentimes, the pain spreads to the forehead.
A person with occipital neuralgia experiences severe shooting pain that can be felt in the scalp, the scalp is sensitive when touched and there is numbness in the scalp and neck. The symptoms of occipital neuralgia are similar to trigeminal neuralgia but they are distinct disorders.
The development of occipital neuralgia can be caused by several reasons such as the following:
- Compression of nerves caused by spasm of the neck muscles
- A pinched nerve at the root of the cervical spine
- A person suffering from diabetes for a long time can oftentimes complain of occipital neuritis.
- Older people with osteoarthritis changes in the cervical spine
- An outcome of injury caused to the skull or after any scalp or skull surgery
- Gout and diseases of the cervical disc
- A tumor in the neck area that causes compression of the occipital nerve which leads to irritation
- Inflammatory changes in the blood vessels
Symptoms of occipital neuralgia
- Pain in the head that can be felt at the base of the skull and at the side of the scalp.
- When one occipital nerve is involved, the pain is one sided and described as burning and throbbing pain.
- Some people experience pain in the eye with slight movement of the neck.
- The scalp is sensitive and tender when touched and there is difficulty in combing the hair or washing hair as the symptoms becomes worse.
Treatment of occipital neuralgia
- The affected person should rest in a calm and quiet place.
- Massage the head and neck since it helps in relaxing the strained muscles
- Apply a warm water bag on the affected area to minimize the occipital neuralgic pain.
- Acupressure and acupuncture are also beneficial as alternative remedies that can provide relief from the pain.
- Rehabilitation exercises helps in relieving an underlying cervical spine condition.
- Other forms of therapy that also helps with occipital neuralgia include occipital nerve stimulation and micro-vascular decompression.
- Use anti-inflammatory medications such as naproxen or ibuprofen as well as anti-depressants and muscle relaxants since these are also helpful.
- The individual should take vitamin C supplements such as sodium ascorbate on a daily basis. This supplement helps in strengthening the nerve fibers, minimizes overall inflammation, eliminates toxins and boosts the immune system of the body.