Occipital Neuralgia

General Overview & Treatment

Occipital neuralgia is a specific type of headache distinguished by chronic pain that throbs, pulses and sends electric-like shocks through one or both sides of the head. It is caused by irritation of the greater occipital nerves found on each side of the head. These nerves emerge from between the cervical vertebrae (upper neck) and make their way through the muscles at the back of the head and into the scalp. The pain of occipital neuralgia typically radiates from the upper neck, through the back of the head, behind the ears and to the top of the scalp—occasionally reaching as far as the forehead. Although the condition is not life-threatening, it dramatically affects quality of life.

Surgical Treatment for Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is often misdiagnosed for years as migraines or other unresolved problems, and treatment is ineffectual. When medical interventions fail to manage the pain and a nerve block confirms accurate diagnosis, vascular decompression surgery is a viable option. Dr. McLaughlin of Princeton Brain, Spine & Sports Medicine [LINK TO: McLaughlin Bio page] has successfully treated occipital neuralgia patients with a procedure called intradural cervical C1-C3 rhizotomy. This type of nerve decompression surgery generally has minor side effects and benefits include:

  • 70 to 75 percent success rate
  • Low risk of worsening the condition
  • Ability to stop using high narcotic doses
  • Improved quality of life

Treatment Success From Princeton Brain, Spine & Sports Medicine

Dr. McLaughlin and the fellowship trained team of PBSSM neurosurgeons have successfully treated occipital neuralgia for over 15 years. Our affiliation with leading research hospitals keeps us at the forefront of pioneering treatment techniques for often-misdiagnosed and hard-to-treat neurological conditions.

If you suffer from unresolved pain in the head and neck, call to schedule a diagnostic examination with Dr. McLaughlin at 215.741.3141 in Pennsylvania, 609.921.9001 in New Jersey. To request information about PBSSM’s advanced spinal, cranial and neurosurgical care or to schedule a consultation, contact PBS using our convenient online form.

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