An occipital headache, also known as occipital neuralgia, is a type of a headache that affects the back of the head. The pain can be severe and debilitating, with frequent episodes. A headache is one of the most common complaints seen by doctors, will millions seeking treatment every year.
Although our connective brain tissue is insensitive, the scalp, head muscles, periosteum, dura and blood vessels are all pain-sensitive and allow for many possible causes of head and facial pain.
Occipital neuralgia is a headache syndrome, which can be either primary or secondary. Primary headaches have no obvious disease-related or structural cause, namely, migraines, tension, and cluster headaches. Whereas, secondary headaches have an underlying disease process that may include tumour, trauma, infection, systemic disease or haemorrhage.
Occipital neuralgia is categorised by chronic pain behind the eyes, at the back of the head, or in the upper neck.
The Cause of Occipital Headache
The cause of occipital neuralgia can be divided into two groups, those with structural causes and those with idiopathic, or ‘unknown’ cause.
Structural Causes include:
- Trauma to the greater/lesser occipital nerves,
- Compression of occipital nerves or C2 and or C3 nerve roots by degenerative cervical spinal changes,
- Cervical disc disease, and
- Tumours affecting C2 and C3 nerve roots.
Occipital Headache: Clinical Symptoms
The most common symptoms of occipital headache include:
- Burning Pain
- Throbbing Pain
Throbbing pain is usually one-sided and continuous, with infrequent, shooting pain. The pain usually radiates from the suboccipital area to the posterior and/or later scalp; occasionally with pain behind the eye, over the neck, temples and frontal regions.Western Medical Treatment for Occipital Headache
Management of occipital headaches/neuralgia usually starts with recommended conservative treatment, such as physical therapy, massage, and medications, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), neuropathic medications (seizure medications, tricyclics antidepressants), and, in some cases, opioids
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Treatment for Occipital Headache
Acupuncture, along with Chinese medicine treatment can effectively treat and manage occipital neuralgia/headaches. Patients often observe reduced severity and frequency of pain; greater range of motion of the neck; and reduce need for medication.
Make an appointment today with one of our experienced Chinese medicine practitioners to help manage your health condition.