Frequently Asked Questions on Occipital Nerve Block
What is an occipital nerve block?
Discomfort may occur in the greater occipital nerve due to irritation or inflammation, and this might lead to various kinds of headaches such as cervicogenic, cluster, migraine or occipital neuralgia. When a patient experiences pain in the back of the head, tension headaches or migraines, an occipital nerve block can offer relief by injecting a mixture of steroid with numbing medication around the greater and lesser occipital nerves.
What does the procedure entail?
Because of its composition, the injected medicine will reduce the inflammation of the tissue close to the occipital nerves, which will eventually reduce pain and other symptoms associated with the nerve irritation in that area. The numbing medicine also blocks the nerve signals.
The injection only takes a few minutes. During the initial stage of the procedure, the patient is either required to sit, or lie down while the hair and skin on the back of the head are cleaned and the area is sterilized with an antiseptic solution. Right after, a needle is inserted through the skin and the local deeper tissues. While it may sound painful, in actuality is only causes a slight pain, if any thanks to the use of a local anesthetic. As already stated, it takes but a couple of minutes and is over before you know it!
What can I expect after the procedure?
No sedatives are used during this procedure, so you will not fall asleep nor have to deal with any drowsiness. Following the injection, due to the anesthetic, you may feel that the pain is gone but this lasts only for a few hours, until the pain returns. Due to the mechanical process of inserting the needle, your head may feel sore for a few days. Once you hit the third day after the injection, you should already feel a considerable improvement in pain relief.
Compared to other procedures, such as the medial branch nerve block or the lumbar sympathetic block, you will recover very fast and most likely will be able to drive home. It’s advisable to take it easy for the next couple of hours and to apply ice pads to the injection location. It’s important to keep in mind that the administered anesthetic wears off in a matter of hours, while the steroid will only work after three to five days—it varies from patient to patient. The effects of the occipital nerve block will last anywhere from several weeks to months.
What else should I know about occipital nerve block?
If you need more injections, they will be done one week or two weeks apart. If the response is positive and your pain goes away, you can have an injection when the symptoms return but you should know that only a maximum of three occipital nerve blocks in a six month period is advised because the more injections you have, the more you increase the chance for unwanted steroid side effects. If you have an active infection, heart disease, diabetes or you currently use blood thinning medication, the procedure is not advised.
The top Northern Colorado pain clinics offer Board Certified pain doctors offering such procedures as occipital blocks and Botox injections for headache relief. There are 3 locations with pain clinics in Greeley, Loveland and Boulder. Most insurance is accepted, call today!