The Occipital Nerve Block treatment is a minimally invasive procedure used to treat patients suffering from chronic head pain by injecting a mixture of a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid into an area at the base of the skull on either side of the spine.
What conditions are treatable with the Occipital Nerve Block injection?
An Occipital Nerve Block is used to treat chronic head pain, migraine headaches, and cluster headaches. Persons suffering from Migraines occipital neuralgia (a condition in which patients experience burning, shooting pain or a feeling described as a “zapping” nerve pain like electricity shooting through their head), often respond well to an Occipital Nerve Block. The procedure may also be used diagnostically in that if the patient benefits from the injection there are steps that can be taken for a more permanent solution such as nerve ablation.
What are expectations when a patient receives an Occipital Nerve Block?
If the cause of your head pain is the occipital nerve then you will experience relief from this procedure. Most patients experience immediate relief due to the local anesthetics used as they instantly numb the nerve. This will wear off after several hours and then it may take up to a few days before the steroidal medications begin to have an effect on the nerve. The procedure is virtually painless as the area injected is numbed with topical anesthetics before the needle is inserted.
How is the Occipital Nerve Block treatment administered?
The procedure may be performed as the patient is sitting up or lying face down. The area to be injected is cleansed with an antiseptic solution and numbed with a topical anesthetic. The needle is inserted and the medications injected. Pressure may be felt as the injection is performed.
You may be asked to describe the effects of the injection on your pain. If the injection provides relief a more permanent solution may be suggested such as ablation of the nerve or a similar procedure. After the injected you may be placed in an observation area to watch for negative reactions to the medications. The entire procedure, including post-procedure observation takes less than an hour.
How long do the effects of the Occipital Nerve Block last?
Individual results cannot be anticipated due to the fact that people react differently to the medications and have varying levels of severity of condition (Greater occipital nerve blocks in chronic cluster headache: a prospective open-label study 2014.). The relief provided by the procedure can last from a few weeks, to several months, to a year. One visit may provide long lasting effects but typically it requires several procedures to gain maximum benefit and longest duration of relief.
What risk or side effects are associated with an Occipital Nerve Block?
Risks and side effects are very low and minimum. You may experience slight bruising, slight swelling and just a few drops of blood at the injection site, but nothing more than can be taken care of with a simple band-aid. Very rarely does an injection site become infected, but as long as it is kept clean after the injection there is no worry of that.
How successful is for the Occipital Nerve Block for the relief of pain?
For persons suffering chronic head pain associated with the occipital nerve the procedure is very effective in providing relief. When being used as a diagnostic procedure it is also very effective in determining if the occipital nerve is in fact the cause of your pain.
What is the bottom line on Occipital Nerve Blocks?
If you are a sufferer of chronic head pain you will likely benefit from an Occipital Nerve Block. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine if you are a candidate for the Occipital Nerve Block procedure.