FAQs on Occipital Nerve Block in Atlanta

Occipital nerve block involves numbing the lesser and greater occipital nerves. This block is done with an injection of an anesthetic and a corticosteroid, which is instilled next to the occipital nerves located under the scalp and on top of the skull.

Why is an occipital nerve block done?

The occipital nerve block is used for the diagnosis and treatment of cervicogenic headache and occipital neuralgia. Cervicogenic headache is associated with spondylosis or problems with the cervical (neck) facet joints. Occipital neuralgia usually follows injury to the nerves at the back of the head (the occiput), and this is characterized by an acute onset of pain.

How is the occipital nerve block done?

The occipital nerve block involves the insertion of a small fine needle through the skin beneath the scalp so a corticosteroid and anesthetic can be instilled near the nerves. You will be positioned on your side on a small examination table, and the pain management doctor in Atlanta will examine your scalp to find the right area to inject.

To minimize pain, the doctor will numb the skin of the injection area before inserting the block needle. The doctor will ask you questions about how you feel during the injection. After the nerves are injected, a bandage is applied.

What are the benefits of this block?

There are two main benefits of the occipital nerve block. It is useful to relieve or reduce pain in the back of the head, and if symptoms improve after one injection, the block is useful for diagnosing occipital neuralgia. Usually, the doctor will have you return for repeat injections if you respond well to the first block/injection.

What can I expect after the occipital nerve block?

After the occipital nerve block, you will be asked to take it easy for the rest of the day. However, you may return to usual activities the day after the procedure. The tenderness at the injection site will remain for 2-24 hours, but this can be relieved by applying an ice pack several times a day.

What are the risks associated with the occipital nerve block?

As with any minimally invasive procedure, there are some risks, side effects, and complications associated with the block. The most common side effect is mild pain at the injection site, which occurs after the local anesthetic wears off. Complications include bleeding, vessel damage, nerve injury, and infection.

How many occipital nerve blocks do I need?

The number of occipital nerve blocks required varies from patient to patient. The injections are typically done one week apart, and a second block is only necessary if the first one does not relieve your symptoms in 7 days. It is hard to predict if the first occipital block will work.

Are occipital nerve blocks effective?

In a recent clinical study of the effects of occipital nerve block on facial pain, most patients had a 50% relief of pain or more. The efficacy rate was 75-100%, with sustained benefits observed for up to three months in many participants. In another trial, 96% of participants achieved 6-month pain relief with approximately 5 injections.