Occipital neuralgia is an uncommon disorder that is the result of either of the occipital nerves being injured. The occipital nerves run from the base of your neck, near your spine, to the top of your head.
The occipital nerves can become damaged due to a blow to the head or another type of injury, like whiplash. Osteoarthritis in the upper spine can also contribute to the disorder.
The most common symptom associated with occipital neuralgia is throbbing or burning pain, usually in the upper back and the back of the head. In some cases, the pain can extend to the sides of the head. Patients with occipital neuralgia often report that their scalp is sensitive to the touch.
Diagnosing occipital neuralgia is the first step for treatment. A nerve block can be used to deaden the occipital nerve to see if that relieves symptoms.
Once the occipital nerve is determined to be the source of the pain, additional nerve block injections can be used to decompress the nerve. A spinal stimulator can also be used to block pain signals from being processed by the brain.