The occipital nerves are tiny nerves that innervate the back of the head and top of the neck. These nerves can become irritated causing headaches and neck aches. Occipital nerve blocks can be both diagnostic and therapeutic by placing numbing medicine and anti-inflammatory medicine around these nerves.
The numbing medicine around the nerves helps locate the pain generators if the pain goes away with the injection. The numbing medicine usually lasts six to eight hours. The anti-inflammatory medicine (corticosteroid) can take several days to start working and can last many weeks. The goal is to interrupt the cycle of daily headache pain. You will most likely require a series of injections to get prolonged benefit after each round.
You will be laying down on an exam table on your stomach in the pain office. Your scalp over the back of your head will be cleaned with alcohol. A tiny needle is then used to inject the medications under the skin. This will be associated with a poke and burning sensation. The procedure lasts 2 minutes and then you will massage the back of your head to help spread the medication. Your scalp over the back of your head will be numb for several hours.
If the numbing medicine relieves your pain but you don’t obtain progressive duration of relief after each injection, you may be a candidate for a longer term relief procedure called a pulsed Radiofrequency ablation. This may provide relief for weeks to months.