Occipital Neuralgia

Applies to: Head, Neck

Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is a condition caused by damage to the occipital nerves by trauma to the head and neck. 

The most common symptom is a chronic headache. 

Secondary symptoms include:

  • Chronic pain in the upper neck, back of the head, and behind the eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Diminished physical sensation in the upper neck and back of the head

Often, the pain affects one side only, though it may occur on both sides if both the nerves are affected. The pain is usually described as shooting, sharp, stabbing, or like electric shocks. The amount of pain varies, lasting for a few seconds at a time to almost continuous pain for longer amounts of time.

Occipital nerve damage can be caused by specific traumas such as concussions, physical stress, and repetitive neck movements. More rarely, causes can include osteochondroma, cerebrospinal fluid (CFL) leaks, radiofrequency nerve ablation, or certain cancers of the spine.