Occipital neuralgia is neurological disorder related to scalp and your head. There are two occipital nerves which innervate the two sides of your scalp and lower back of your head. They arise from the second and third cervical vertebra situated in the neck. Occipital neuralgia results when these nerves get inflamed or injured. In some cases the pain may reach till forehead.
The symptoms of occipital neuralgia consist of severe shooting pain in scalp, scalp sensitivity to touch and jar. Patients may also complain of numbness in scalp and neck. The symptoms of occipital neuralgia and trigeminal neuralgia are almost similar and they need to be differentiated as both are separate disorders.
Treatment of occipital neuralgia depends on the underlying cause. Once the cause is addressed, the symptoms of this disease gradually recede and disappear completely.
Causes Of Occipital Neuralgia
Several reasons are known for development of occipital neuralgia and they include:
- Pinched nerve at the root of cervical spine
- As a sequel of injury to the skull or after any scalp or skull surgery
- Compression of nerves due to spasm of neck muscles
- Aged persons having osteoarthritic changes in cervical spine
- Diabetes; patient suffering from diabetes for long time may often complain of occipital neuritis
- Inflammatory changes in blood vessels.
- A tumor in neck region can compress the occipital nerve and cause irritation
- Diseases of cervical disc
- Gout, in this disease there is abnormal rise of uric acid in blood
Occipital Neuralgia Symptoms
Similar to other types of neuralgia, the main symptom of occipital neuralgia is pain in head, at the base of skull and at the side of scalp.Usually one occipital nerve is involved and the pain remains one sided. It is burning and throbbing pain.
Few patients may experience pain in eye. It is usually one sided. Pain in eye may aggravate with slightest movement of neck.
The scalp becomes tender and sensitive. The brushing hair becomes a difficult task. Due to pain and tenderness he may avoid washing his hair as this may worsen the symptom.
Occipital Neuralgia Diagnosis
Many other forms of headache such as migraine and cluster headache or trigeminal neuralgia have symptom similarity with occipital neuritis. Therefore it is necessary to diagnose the disease perfectly. At first, your health care consultant may take complete history and examine you thoroughly.
Upon suspecting the symptoms to be that of occipital headache, he may recommend blood tests and MRI scanning. If the pain is severe, he may give a nerve block with anesthetic agent. If your pain is relieved temporarily then the likely cause is occipital neuralgia.
Trigeminal neuralgia can be differentiated on one point; its shooting and shocking pain is felt on face, whereas the pain of occipital neuralgia is felt on scalp and head.
Natural Cures For Occipital Neuralgia
Primarily treatment is aimed at relieving pain. The next step is to find the underlying cause and treat it.
To relieve pain, several natural treatments are found effective.
- Massage over head and neck helps to relax strained muscles
- Patient finds relief in calm and quiet place
- Applying warm water bag on the painful area helps to relieve occipital neuralgic pain
- Acupressure and acupuncture are also beneficial alternative remedies that are found to give promising results
- Physiotherapy exercise is beneficial in relieving underlying cervical spine problems
- This may simultaneously benefit in relieving occipital neuralgia
Other forms of therapy include occipital nerve stimulation, Micro-vascular decompression. Anti inflammatory, anti depressant and muscle relaxants medicines are also beneficial.
Occipital neuralgia is not life-threatening disease. With proper medication, alternative therapies and adequate rest, patient’s condition improves to great extent.