Ever get pain in the back on your head and neck, specifically at the base of the neck? This muscles here are called the suboccipital muscles collectively, and when there is pain here, the term is occipital neuralgia.
What is the Occipital Neuralgia? Occipital neuralgia refers to having pain and muscle spasms that come specifically from the base of the skull, the subocciptal area. The pain can radiate to the back, front, and side of the head, as well as behind the eyes. The location of pain is related to the areas supplied by the greater and lesser occipital nerves, which run from the area where the spinal column meets the neck, up to the scalp at the back of the head. These occipital nerves come from the the area of the second and third vertebrae of the neck
What Causes Occipital Neuralgia? Commonly this condition occurs more in women. Causes include:
A trauma to the head and the neck, such as whiplash , or a direct hit
pinching of the nerves by overly tight neck muscles
faulty neck posture : frequent lengthy periods of keeping the head in a forward and downward position
spinal column compression
nerve lesions(due to compression of the nerves)
blood vessel inflammation
blood vessel inflammation
osteoarthritis (due to compression of the nerves)
local tumors (due to compression of the nerves)
Commonly, the nerves are inflamed and sensitive because they are trapped within the muscles through which they pass. Muscle spasm and pain are often associated with nerve entrapment, which causes localized pain, spasm and muscle cramping.
Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia
Headaches that are localized or following a "ram's horn" pattern on the side of the head, often starting in the upper neck or base of the skull (can be one-sided or on both sides)
Pain in the scalp
Pain in the forehead
Scalp that is tender to the touch, often hypersensitive. Even brushing ones hair can painful
Pain or pressure behind the eyes (Eyes are very sensitive to light especially when the headache is present)
What is the treatment options for Occipital Neuralgia?
oral medications that are designed to reduce inflammation
local nerve blocks and injections of steroids directly into the affected area.
head and neck massage
trigger point therapy of the suboccipital muscles
using a supportive pillow at night
traction for the neck
Recently, I came across a patients forum that discussed treatment options for occipital neuralgia . Choosing the right neck pillow for this condition can be tricky because it is very easy to set of the occipital nerves because they are so sensitive.
Best Pillow for Occipital Neuralgia
I too was looking for a pillow for the last 4 months. I randomly ordered the cervical traction neck pillow thinking it would be another pillow that truely wouldn't be comfortable. I could not believe how well it worked. I did not have to worry about the pressure building on the base of my head with this pillow. Albeit it does take time to get used to this pillow as it is correcting your posture. Give it a try and I hope it works for you too!
Beverley, the best cervical pillow I would reccomend is
Arc4life's Cervical Linear Traction Neck Pillow. This neck pillow has two sides to it- a traction side and also a support side. The traction side has a "V" that gives your neck a gentle stretch while laying on your back. This will help to put your neck in the optimal position for proper neck posture. The pillow does not come in a smaller size. If you are a petite person, I would recommend a different
support neck pillow that is a smaller size.
Does this condition ever travel to in between the shoulder blades out towards the arms, effecting carpal tunnel...down the back to the right lower side, accompanied by cold washes and spasms, wierd pinching sensations around toward the left pelvis and hip and down into the top and side of the arch of the foot? I have every symptom of Occipital Neuralgia along with these as well as dizziness, nausea, numbness, swelling, of the hands, tingling in the fingertips, ringing in the ears, TMJ, anxiety, circulation issues, and feelings of cold (unable to get warm and i had usually preferred the cold until lately...) Please help! Angela
The pinching is between the shoulder blades...it hurts to turn and look behind me...and the hip pain is shooting and excruciating...I was in a car wreck 14 years ago (I am only 31) and I have had blunt trauma to the head as well...also experiance lower back pain when sitting in a car that often radiates from right to left and spasms.
Can Someone share with me how long Occipital pinched nerve syndrom, lasts? I am now experiencing swollen right eye, on the side of the pinched nerve. I have now been on Lyrica, an oral nerve blocker, muscle relaxers, and pain pills. Massage therapy and mild chiropratic care. My mother had a brain tumor, and this condition scares me.....I want to clarify it isn't a tumor casuing the pinched nerve. Please advise.