What is occipital neuralgia?

You are experiencing severe head pain, but you are not sure if it is a headache, migraine, or a little-known occipital neuralgia. What are the most common symptoms of occipital neuralgia that can lead to a correct diagnosis? We discussed the 12 main symptoms and discussed the difference between this condition and migraine and headache.

What causes occipital neuralgia?

Its symptoms are similar to headaches, but occipital neuralgia has a unique origin and is usually very different from the usual headaches and migraines. Occipital neuralgia is caused by irritation, inflammation, or damage to the occipital nerve. The occipital nerve runs from the base of the neck to the back of the skull, as shown below.

Occipital Neuralgia Symptoms | PainDoctor.com

Johns Hopkins Medicine explains how these energize the head:

“Most of the sensations in the back of the head and on the top of the head are transmitted to the brain through the two occipital great nerves. There is a La traduction est trop longue pour être enregistrée
The nerve is on both sides of the head. The two occipital nerves exit between the bones of the spine of the upper neck, pass through the muscles at the back of the head, and enter the scalp. Sometimes they are almost as long as the top, but they cannot cover the area near the face or ears; other nerves supply these areas.

Occipital neuralgia occurs when these nerves are damaged. In most cases, the culprit is a single accident. Trauma or serious injuries to the head or neck can damage these nerves. This usually happens in car accidents or other injuries that cause injury.

Other common causes include neck muscle tightness, arthritis, and diabetes. You can learn more about each of them in our article “the eight most common causes of occipital neuralgia“.


What are the most common symptoms of occipital neuralgia?

To determine whether you suffer from occipital neuralgia and migraine or other types of headaches, it is important to check the symptoms of occipital neuralgia.

The most common occipital neuralgia symptoms include:

  • Sudden, severe, and sharp head pain

  • Pain that occurs most commonly behind the eye, at the base of the head, and on one side of the head

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Scalp tenderness

  • Blurry vision

  • Dizziness

  • Vertigo

  • Slurred speech

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Tightness and pain in the neck

  • Dental pain

  • Let’s talk in more detail about this occipital nerve.

  • Pain

    Pain is the most characteristic symptom of occipital neuralgia and often weakens patients. But pain itself is a broad term. Occipital neuralgia in particular is often described as:

  • Episodic

  • Shocking

  • Shooting

  • Radiating

  • Aching

  • Burning

  • Throbbing

  • Intense

  • Piercing

  • Stabbing

  • Sharp

  • Spasms

    While migraine patients may deal with mild, aching pain that never goes away, occipital neuralgia results in pain that are more intense and (usually) of shorter duration. This pain is often felt:

Along the occipital nerves At the base of the head where the neck meets the head On the back of the head Most often on one side of the head, although it can be bilateral (or both sides) Behind one eye However, each patient will experience this pain differently. Some have sharp, dull pain, while others feel pain and sharpness on the sides of the head or even the forehead. Many patients may feel pain for a few seconds or just a few minutes.


Allergy, in its many forms, is one of the most characteristic symptoms of occipital neuralgia. If you suffer from occipital neuralgia, you usually feel an intense sensation directly on the affected occipital nerve. When these areas are touched or pressed, the pain will suddenly attack. This sensitivity may only last for a few seconds, but thin nerves usually remain after that, and one of the main ways doctors diagnose this condition is palpation of these areas because it can help them determine whether occipital neuralgia or migraine is causing pain.

As explained by the American Association of Neurosurgeons, this gentleness can directly affect many aspects of your life. They pointed out: “The scalp may become soft to the touch, and activities like combing hair may increase a person’s pain. Other activities that cause pain include lying on a pillow, turning your head to one side, or moving your neck.

In addition, to touch sensitivity, many people with this disease also experience light sensitivity.

12 Of The Most Common Occipital Neuralgia Symptoms | PainDoctor.com

Balance and coordination issues
Like migraine, occipital neuralgia symptoms also include symptoms that affect balance and coordination.

These include:

  • Vision problems such as blurred eyes

  • Dizziness

  • Nausea (vomiting in severe cases)

  • Unclear speech

  • Pain Involved

  • Finally, the human body is a complex organism. Pain in one area, especially severe pain, can affect and cause pain in other areas.

Patients with occipital neuralgia often experience increased neck pain, especially when moving their heads. They may also feel tightness, stiffness, or cramps in the neck.

Similarly, they may also experience tooth pain or pain around the mouth and chin.

How to distinguish between headache or migraine and occipital neuralgia?
Occipital neuralgia is a rare disease, but when it does occur, it is most often misdiagnosed at first. Conditions with many of the same symptoms include:

  • Partial headache
  • Tension headache
  • Cluster headache
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

There are some ways to help you determine whether you have occipital neuralgia or other headache diseases, especially migraine. However, please note that these differences can only be used in a general way. Everyone’s pain experience is different, so it’s best to talk to a certified pain specialist to get the correct diagnosis. Misdiagnosis of the cause of pain may lead to ineffective treatment and persistent pain.

The main differences between migraine and occipital neuralgia include:

Pain type: The most common migraine is a dull pain and pulsating pain, which occurs within a few hours; occipital neuralgia is usually narcolepsy, sharp and severe, with a short duration
Pain site: Patients with occipital neuralgia feel pain when palpating the occipital nerve; this may or may not occur in migraine patients
Vision symptoms: Both can cause vision problems, but tears and redness are characteristic of other headaches, while occipital neuralgia often produces blurred vision or pain behind the eyes.
Pain triggers: Migraine, in particular, usually has known triggers, such as light, certain odors or food, or stress; occipital neuralgia most often occurs when turning or moving the head
To determine if you have one disease or another, start by writing a pain diary today. This is a very valuable tool that can help you clearly explain to your doctor the symptoms you are experiencing. We talk about some of the best choices in the “29 Best Chronic Pain Apps”.

How do you treat occipital neuralgia?Treatment starts with diagnosis, continues with preventative efforts, and includes both interventional and complementary therapies to treat pain.

Your doctor can determine if you have this condition by:

Reviewing the notes and potential triggers you noted in your pain diary
Conduct a thorough physical examination, including palpation of the occipital nerve area
Order other diagnostic tests as needed, such as MRI, CT scans, X-rays, or blood tests
Perform diagnostic occipital nerve block (can also be used for treatment, as described in the video below)

Once you realize that you have occipital neuralgia, there are proven treatments that can help. Occipital neuralgia is a debilitating and painful disease, but it is not life-threatening. With combination therapy, you can manage and prevent most of the pain associated with this condition. As “Medical News Today” explained: “Its purpose is to provide relief to many people by relaxing and releasing the muscles that exert pressure on the occipital nerve.

We discussed all your treatment options (family, Supplements, Medications, and interventions) in “How to Treat Occipital Neuralgia: 21 Best Ways”.Visit this post to discuss treatments and treatments in depth.

If you think you have symptoms of occipital neuralgia, it’s time to consult a pain specialist. Because this is a more complex and rare disease, they can lead the diagnosis and propose different treatments. You can find a pain doctor in your area by clicking the button below or using the tips here to find a pain doctor in your area.


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