What is occipital nerve neuralgia and what treatment methods are used to treat it


What is occipital nerve neuralgia and what treatment methods are used to treat it

There are many types of neuralgia. Each has its own characteristics. One of the most difficult diseases is neuritis of the occipital nerve. It has many symptoms and can send even a completely healthy person to a hospital bed.

Neuralgia of the occipital nerve

Neuralgia is a disease in which peripheral nerves are damaged. It is characterized by , squeezing or irritation of nerve fibers. The target of the disease are fibers located outside the brain and spinal cord, performing the function of communication between the central and certain parts of the body.

In the case of occipital neuralgia, 2 large and 2 small nerves, arranged in pairs on both sides of the occiput, may be symmetrically affected with respect to the axis of the spine. The large ones continue the posterior branches of the 2nd cervical nerve. They go out — under the inferior oblique muscle of the head, pass through the trapezius muscle in the region of the occiput under the skin, provide its sensitivity.

The small ones originate from the cervical plexus, consist of fibers of the first – third nerves. They innervate the lateral parts of the occiput, partially the auricles.

Types of neuralgia

Neuritis of the occipital nerve may occur as a separate disease or as a result of other diseases. Therefore, there are two types of it:

  • Primary (idiopathic). Another name is Arnold Neuralgia. It occurs spontaneously, regardless of other factors. It also suddenly disappears.
  • Secondary (symptomatic). Appears as a result of various diseases.

The reasons

The disease occurs under the influence of various factors. The exception is primary neuralgia. It is still unknown what causes it.

One of the most common causes of secondary neuralgia is the action of adverse occupational factors. Constantly being in an uncomfortable position, forced bending of the neck or maintaining it in a certain position provokes strong muscle tension and inflammation of the cervical nerve. Most often, this path of neuralgia formation is found in drivers and employees of banks and offices.

Read also … What are the symptoms of a pinched nerve in the cervical region and can it be cured at home?

Another common cause is degenerative — dystrophic processes in the neck, including osteochondrosis and arthritis. The growth of bone tissue, the replacement of cartilage with it, immobilization, the convergence of the vertebrae, the appearance of a hernia and protrusion lead to a squeezing or pinching of the occipital nerve. Violation develops as a result of sudden movements, spinal injuries, mainly in the cervical region, appearing during sports. Hypothermia provokes inflammation of the nerves in the neck.

Strong emotional , stress can provoke the development of the disease or worsen its course.

The occurrence of neuralgia is often caused by the presence of the following diseases in the patient:

  1. Diseases associated with the appearance of tumors in the neck or neck.
  2. Infectious diseases of the brain and spinal cord, in particular encephalitis or meningitis.
  3. Diabetes.
  4. Inflammation of the blood vessels.
  5. Viral diseases.
  6. Tuberculous spondylitis.
  7. Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus erythematosus.
  8. Diabetic polyneuropathy.

The exact causes of the disease can be determined by the doctor. Only they will help determine the correct treatment tactics. Without this, withdrawal will have a short-term effect.


When neuritis of the occipital nerve hurt the same bumps. The pain spreads to the neck, ear, lower jaw, orbit. Can be felt in the shoulder blade, the area around the clavicle. Usually is one-sided. In severe lesions captures both sides.

The pain is paroxysmal. Appears abruptly, as if hit by a current. Accompanied by lumbago, pulsation. Attacks last from several seconds to several minutes, during exacerbations can be repeated very often – up to hundreds per day. The pain is aggravated by coughing, sneezing, unsuccessful tilting of the head, scratching, touching the head.

During the interictal period, a headache, tingling, burning, and feeling of tingling goose bumps the person. Pain may be accompanied by vomiting, nausea, cold feeling, lacrimation. It is impossible to touch the diseased area. However, sometimes the affected area loses sensitivity, becomes numb. If you touch it, it seems that it did not touch itself, but to some other object. Pain does not occur even from the injection.

The inability to predict the time of occurrence of attacks, their duration and intensity leads to the fact that the patient is constantly in tension, thereby further worsening his condition. On the other hand, the frequency and strength of pain attacks lead to disability.

With the defeat of the nerve processes there is photophobia, intolerance to loud sounds. Sometimes in the area of ​​damage occurs hair loss, hyperemia.

With signs of neuritis, be sure to consult a doctor.


It is quite difficult to establish an exact diagnosis in this pathology. The doctor collects anamnesis data, records patient complaints. Be sure to specify whether the patient has concomitant diseases. In some cases, he clicks on the so-called trigger points. Exposure to them leads to pain.

The starting point of the small occipital nerve is located in the area where the mastoid process connects with the posterior part of the sternocleidomastoid muscle. The trigger point of the large occipital nerve is detected by drawing a conditional line between the occiput and the mastoid process.

To clarify the diagnosis are assigned:

  1. CT scan. This study is the most accurate. Using X-rays, layer-by-layer scanning of tissues is performed.
  2. Magnetic resonance imaging. Irradiation with electromagnetic waves allows for the study of soft tissues and bones.
  3. X-ray. An assessment of the bone structures of the neck and head is carried out.

If in the history and the results of the study, no diseases were found, the doctor diagnoses primary neuralgia.


For the treatment of neuralgia used conservative or surgical methods of therapy. Conservative include the use of drugs, massage, therapeutic exercises, stretching, acupuncture and physiotherapy. To alleviate the condition are also used traditional medicine. The described treatments are aimed at alleviating the symptoms of neuralgia. In the case of secondary neuralgia, treatment of the underlying disease is also required.

Therapy of acute forms of neuralgia is sometimes carried out in medical institutions. With a weakening of the intensity of signs and symptoms, treatment is continued at home.

Drug therapy

The prescription of drugs and medicines depends on the tactics of treatment determined by the doctor.

Eliminate muscle spasm contribute muscle relaxants – drugs aimed at reducing muscle tone, in particular, Mydocalm and tizanidine (Sirdalud).

For the treatment of inflammation of the occipital nerve and the elimination of pain, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are used – Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Meloxicam, Diclofenac.

Pain can be removed through the blockade of the occipital nerve. Hormonal or anesthetic drug substances are injected into the trigger points or the exit point of the nerve endings between the back cervical muscles. Hydrocortisone, Dexamethasone, Diprospan have proven to be effective among hormonal drugs. The most commonly used anesthetics include Lidocaine or Novocain.

If the pain does not disappear, prescribe anticonvulsant drugs, antidepressants. The first group includes Pregabalin, Carbamazepine, Gabapentin. They reduce muscle tone, reduce pressure on the nerve. Antidepressants include Duloxetine and .


To cure neuritis of the occipital nerve, various physiotherapy procedures are used:

  1. Phototherapy. Light is applied to the affected area in a different color.
  2. UHF Appointed after the blockade of the occipital nerve and reduce the severity of symptoms. Heats the area of ​​soft tissue, subcutaneous tissue.
  3. UHF-therapy. Decimeter waves have anti-inflammatory effect, improve the absorption of oxygen and nutrients.
  4. Electrophoresis with novocaine, vitamins or Dibazol. This method combines drug therapy and physical effects.
  5. Laser therapy Light is irradiated with laser LEDs. Practically no contraindications.
  6. Inductothermy. Under the influence of a magnetic field in fluids and organs, currents are formed, heating the affected area.


Well reduces the compression of nerve receptors, relieves muscle spasm massage. The site behind the mastoid process and the space between it and the upper cervical vertebra is massaged. Massage the occipital region begins with stroking, then spend squeezing, rectilinear, zigzag and circular rubbing.

After carrying out 3-5 sessions, rectilinear and circular rubbing of the neck along the spine, as well as the rubbing and vibration of the sternocleidomastoid muscles, are added. The duration of the session is 15 minutes. The number of sessions – 12-14.

Sometimes prescribed acupressure, based on the impact on certain points.

At home, it is permissible to do self-massage. The back of the head is rubbed in circular, straight, zigzag movements, stroking.

Surgical treatment of occipital neuralgia

Operations are carried out in such cases when the neuritis of the occipital nerve cannot be managed by conservative methods. There are 2 methods of surgical intervention:

  1. Microvascular decompression. This method is used in squeezing the nerve fibers. During the operation, a synthetic protector or muscle is inserted between the squeezing vessel and the nerve. Pain syndrome is stopped.
  2. Neurostimulation. Under the skin in the neck area implanted device that generates electrical impulses. At the pain point, the patient feels warm and vibrated. Adjustment of the neurostimulator is performed by the patient independently.

Treatment of folk remedies

The use of only folk treatment methods will not help get rid of neuralgia. However, in some cases they will help speed up recovery, improve the patient’s condition:

  1. Herbal bath A tablespoon of peppermint, thyme, oregano poured into a glass of boiling and leave for a few minutes. Strained infusion is added to warm water. The duration of the bath every day for 10 minutes. The duration of treatment is 1 month.
  2. Bath with essential oils. A teaspoon of spruce oil is mixed with the same amount of olive oil and milk. Poured into a warm bath.
  3. Compress of vegetables. Finely chopped potatoes, pickled cucumbers, onions. Vegetables are dipped in vinegar, insisted for several hours, occasionally shaking. Strained vegetables are wrapped in cheesecloth, placed in a sore spot.
  4. Horseradish compress. The root of a fresh plant is ground to a mushy state. Add half a spoonful of vegetable oil or sour cream. Wrapped in a cloth, applied to the painful area, tied with a towel and kept until a burning sensation. Do compresses twice a day.
  5. Mustard compress. Mustard powder is diluted in water to get a thick mass. Put on gauze and put on a painful place. The back of the head and neck area is wrapped in a towel or scarf.
  6. A freshly boiled egg, green geranium leaves can be applied to the sore spot.
  7. Beet drops. From the grated beets squeeze juice. It is buried 2-3 drops in the ear from the pain side twice a day.
  8. A decoction of yarrow. Dry plant pour a glass of boiling water, insist for 1 hour. Is ingested three times a day and 1 tablespoon.

Self-prescribing of folk treatment methods can lead to a worsening of the condition. They should be used only in consultation with the doctor.


Incorrectly chosen treatment, the lack of therapy leads to the destruction of nervous tissue, constant intense pain, and other negative consequences. It is possible to get rid of some of them only with the help of operations and long-term rehabilitation. The most frequent consequences are:

  1. Neuropathy. In this case, degenerative-dystrophic lesions of nerve fibers appear excessive sensitivity, accompanied by severe pain.
  2. Blindness occurs when inflammation spreads to the optic nerves.
  3. Changing the position of the vertebrae (torticollis) can lead to disability.
  4. Against the background of constant pain, mental disorders appear.


To reduce the risk of neuritis can be, if you follow some recommendations:

  • Do not sit in the workplace in the same position for a long time. It is necessary to try to change position, if possible to walk, stretch, do small exercises.
  • Every day you need to do a special set of exercises. The effect is achieved by regularity. It is difficult to begin, but after a few days, the exercises become part of a daily morning or evening ritual.
  • When playing sports should avoid traumatic species. Any activity associated with physical activity should be adequately evaluated. Do not allow the influence of gravity on one site.
  • At least once a year should be massaged. If neuralgia symptoms appear, posture is disturbed, you should consult with your doctor about the feasibility of physical procedures.
  • In cold weather, you need to dress warmly, cover your head and neck, and avoid overcooling.
  • Limit the use of alcoholic beverages.


The causes of neuralgia of the occipital nerve are various factors. In therapy, conservative, operative methods, physiotherapy, regular gymnastics, massage and folk remedies are used. Untreated disease can lead to serious consequences and disability.

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