Occipital Nerve Blocks

What an Occipital Nerve Block Is

During a nerve block, pain-relieving medicine is injected in the region around a nerve in the posterior head region. This procedure is straightforward and typically performed in clinic, without sedation. During the procedure, a needle is placed near the nerve and an anesthetic (or a combination of anesthetic and steroid) are injected. Pain relief may be immediate and sometimes longer lasting.

An occipital nerve block is done to manage:

  • Pain that affects the back of the head or one side of the head.
  • sensations of shooting, zapping, stinging or burning pain
  • migraine or cluster headaches
  • A tender or painful scalp, which may be a sign of an inflamed nerve

What should I expect after the Occipital Nerve Block?

Immediately after the injection, you may feel that your scalp is numb and pain lessoned due to the local anesthetic injection. This is due to the local anesthetic injected. This sensation may last for a few hours. Your pain can return and the area of injection may feel sore for a day or two. This is due to the mechanical process of needle insertion and injection of medication into the tissue. Benefits may also be noticed beginning after a couple of weeks, sometimes in conjunction with continuing a migraine preventative medication.

What are the risks and side effects of Occipital Nerve Blocks?

This procedure is generally safe. However, with any procedure there are risks, side effects and possibility of complications. The most common side effect is temporary pain at the injection site. Some people may also experience temporary light-headedness. Other uncommon risks involve infection, bleeding, and worsening of symptom. Fortunately, serious side effects and complications are uncommon.

Who should not have an Occipital Nerve Block?

If you are allergic to any of the medications to be injected, if you are on a blood thinner medication, if you have an active ongoing infection, or if you have poorly controlled diabetes or heart disease, you should not have an occipital nerve block performed. Consider postponing it until your overall medical condition improves.