FAQ’s on Occipital Nerve Block
Occipital nerves are the nerves located at the base of the skull, on either side of the neck. A specific kind of pain known as occipital neuralgia is caused by irritation or inflammation in these nerves. This pain might produce various kinds of headaches (such as a migraine). Blocking these nerves might temporarily halt the severe pain or episodic headaches. Occipital nerve blocks work in this way to suppress symptomatic relief of chronic pain, the severity of the pain, and the frequency of occurrence.
The occipital nerve block is an injection used in the area of the occipital nerves to block pain signals from reaching the brain. This injection is made up of steroids or other medications along with local anesthesia. It reduces the pain and symptoms by suppressing the inflammation around the nerves. Generally, it takes only a few minutes for this medicine to work. No preparation from the patient’s side is required and a normal examination room might be used to carry out the procedure.
Expectations and procedure of a occipital nerve block
A patient may experience pain initially during this treatment as a needle is inserted into the skin and deeper into the tissues. However, relief can be immediately provided to the patient when the skin and tissues are numbed with an anesthetic using a thin needle during the treatment.
The injection numbs the occipital nerves and has two major benefits. First of all, it helps in the treatment of occipital neuralgia by reducing pain in the back of the head. Secondly, it also helps in the diagnosis of occipital neuralgia. It is recommended to repeat this cycle if the patient effectively shows signs of relief following the injection. A patient is likely to experience additional benefits with the addition of Occipital Nerve Stimulation. According to a survey conducted in 2006, it was very clear by the results that the patients who received the nerve stimulation experienced a significant reduction in symptoms with no re-occurrences for up to seven months.
When can a patient resume daily activities after a occipital nerve block
Many times the patient is able to return to their normal daily activities on the very same day. The primary possible complication is pain at the injection site.
How long do the treatment/injections last?
The effects of the local anesthetic are relatively short-lived, but within three to five days, the steroid begins to work and its effects can last anywhere from a few days to several months. Studies show relief in over 95% for cervicogenic headaches and 85% for cluster headaches and migraines.
Risks and side effects
Occipital Nerve Blocks are considered fairly safe. However, complications can be seen with any procedure. One of the most common side effects is pain at the sight of injection. However, this pain is temporary. Problems, like minimal bleeding or infection occur very rarely.
- On-going active infection
- Poorly controlled heart disease or diabetes
- Anyone on blood thinning medications
- Allergy to steroids or any other medication to be injected in the process.
Pain is an unpleasant physical feeling or perception by the human body that is caused by injury to body tissues. It has been said that pain acts as a protector for the body. Pain is experienced by everyone and their perceptions vary even with the same stimulus at various points in their lives. People need to seek medical attention if they are suffering from pain on a regular basis.
Occipital Nerve Blocks vary in success for patients only and may not be for everyone. They can prove to be better than oral medication in suppressing chronic headaches. It is worth considering if the patient has not experienced effective relief through other means.