Occipital Headache

Headaches are a common ailment which varies in intensity, pain and location. Although the majority of headaches are a temporary nuisance some can be more serious, concerning and disruptive.

One common patient complaint is occipital headaches which can signify an underlying condition that can be treated with massage and bodywork techniques.

Occipital headaches also known as occipital neuralgia is a non life threatening disorder that is located at the back of the head and can arise from a variety of causes. It is a soft tissue injury whereby it develops tension within the myofascial system which creates stress onto the skeletal system. From this misalignment of muscles results and there is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system and poor habitual body techniques which consequently causes pain or an occipital headache. The occipital headache develops from sustained contraction of semispinalis capitis. The semispinalis capitis can entrap the greater occipital nerve leading to pain, numbness and burning from the occipital region to the top of the head.

The location of the occipital nerves arise from the upper spinal cord and branch out over the back of the head to the scalp, supplying sensation to the region.  The majority of patients with this disorder experience pain originating at the base of the skull and radiating to one side of the back of the head. Other experiences felt can include throbbing, aching or burning pain; even shooting or shock-like pain.
Causes of Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is the result of compression or irritation of the occipital nerves due to injury, entrapment of the nerves, or inflammation of the muscles and nerves and lastly bone and blood abnormalities.

Medical Conditions

  • Trauma to the back of the head
  • Neck tension and/or tight neck muscles
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tumours in the neck
  • Cervical disc disease
  • Infection
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Blood vessel inflammation

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

  • Aching, burning, and throbbing pain that typically starts at the base of the head and radiates to the scalp
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain behind the eye
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Tender scalp
  • Pain when moving the neck

Diagnosing Occipital Neuralgia

If you think you may have occipital neuralgia, make an appointment with your doctor.

  • MRI Scan
  • Physical Examination
  • Blood test

For treatment to work, it is very important that you receive an accurate diagnosis.
Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

The type of treatment depends on what is causing the inflammation or irritation of the occipital nerves. There are a number of things you can try to get relief, including:

  • Apply heat to the neck
  • Rest in a quiet room
  • Massage tight and painful neck muscles
  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs

Surgery may be considered if pain does not respond to other treatments or comes back.

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Malcolm Calcutt

In the last century, a mechanical fitter by trade. Now re-invented as a Soft Tissue Therapist that uses past skill sets to enable better understanding of your presentation. Loving the ability to have a difference in peoples lives through greater awareness and education. Quiet time is traveling, exploring our past around the world, Antiquities hold so much lost knowledge and understanding about being human.
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