Occipital Nerve Block
An occipital nerve block is an injection of a steroid or other medication around the greater and lesser occipital nerves that are located on the back of the head just above the neck area.
The steroid injected reduces the inflammation and swelling of tissue around the occipital nerves. This may in turn reduce pain, and other symptoms caused by inflammation or irritation of the nerves and surrounding structures. Typically, headaches over the back of the head, including certain types of tension headaches and migraine headaches, may respond to occipital nerve blocks.
During The Procedure
This is a procedure that only takes a few minutes. The injected steroid reduces any inflammation and swelling of tissue around the occipital nerves. That inflammation is frequently the root cause of a patient’s head pain.
Discomfort during the procedure should be minimal since the injection site is numbed with a local anesthetic using a very thin needle during the performance of the block. Afterward, the patient rests briefly in the office. Most people can drive themselves home, but should take it easy and not return to work or other taxing activities until the next day.
If a patient desires further sedation, that is certainly available. Usually this isn’t necessary and sedation does increase recovery time. Also a second party must then drive the patient home.
Patients are advised to be aware that after the injection, pain may seem to be gone; this is due to the anesthetic and will only last for a few hours. Unfortunately, the original pain will likely return in addition to a sore head for a day or two. The good news is that after three to five days, longer-term pain relief is possible.