Occipital Nerve Block

FAQs on Occipital Nerve Blocks

What is an Occipital Nerve Block?


An Occipital Nerve Block is an injection of a mixture of pain medications, usually a local anesthetic and a corticosteroid, into the neck at the base of the skull in order to numb the greater and lesser occipital nerves. These nerves are located on the rear of the neck, and on each side of the spine itself.

While they do not provide motor function, they are the sole source of feeling for the head. If these nerves become affected, it can result in episodic headaches that can cause severe pain for the patient.

What can be gained by receiving Occipital Nerve Blocks?


The goal of Occipital Nerve Blocks is to relieve chronic pain in the area, and to reduce the frequency of headaches in order to help patients return to a pain-free life. This block is primarily used to treat occipital neuralgia, which is the root condition responsible for the headaches. These headaches can come in a variety of forms, including chronic migraines and cluster headaches.

How is the Occipital Nerve Block procedure performed?


With the patient seated or lying down, the area to be injected is first cleaned with an antiseptic cleanser. The tissue in the injection area is then numbed with a local anesthetic with a very thin needle in order to minimize discomfort during the nerve block. The physician then injects the area with the anesthetic and corticosteroid to numb the nerves. This is usually painless, but the patient may feel some mild discomfort.

If no relief is felt within one to two weeks, the patient may be given a second injection. If relief is obtained in a timely manner with this injection, the patient will likely be able to receive the injections up to three times in a six-month period. Otherwise, the physician may recommend a new course of action.

How long does the Occipital Nerve Block last?


The effectiveness of the procedure is dependent on how well the patient responds to the drugs that are injected. There will be some immediate relief due to the local anesthetic that will last for a few hours. Afterwards, the pain will return and could actually be worse than before the injection. This will subside in a day or two, after which the patient will begin to feel noticeable relief that can last from a few days to several months.


What risk or side effects are involved with the Occipital Nerve Block?


As with any medical procedure, there are some risks. With the Occipital Nerve Block, the patient may experience bleeding and/or infection at the injection site, increased pain, inflammation, discomfort, irritation, or allergic reaction to the injection.

There is also the very rare risk of the physician missing the nerve and injecting the anesthetic into the wrong area of the neck. Fortunately, these side effects are uncommon and the procedure is generally considered safe.

What conditions are treatable with the Occipital Nerve Block?


Patients that are suffering from either migraine or cluster headaches can benefit from Occipital Nerve Block injections. Also, patients that are living with chronic pain resulting from occipital neuralgia may be able to benefit from this injection.


What conditions are treatable with the Occipital Nerve Block?


The success of Occipital Nerve Block is dependent on how well a person responds to the medications. Generally, the Occipital Nerve Block procedure is considered to be reliable, with  85-95% of patients receiving it report pain relief lasting upwards of six months for several types of headaches.

If you or a loved one is suffering from migraines or other types of headaches, an occipital block may be able to help. Texas Pain Network offers several Double Board Certified pain management doctors in San Antonio accepting over 50 insurance plans at multiple locations.

Call (210) 202-4030 for more information and scheduling!