Headache And Occipital Neuralgia- Know The Difference

The origination of headache in the upper neck or back of the head, sprawling behind the eyes up to the scalp and forehead is referred to as occipital neuralgia. One of the most common health problems include headaches and approximately 90% of people around the world experience tension headache. 

At some point in life, people might experience painful migraines. This is the leading cause of tension headaches or occipital neuralgia diseases.  Even though a form of headache, occipital neuralgia is not the same as a normal headache. 

Difference Between Oxygen Neuralgia And Tension Headache

Headaches of all forms, from mild to severe, fall under neuralgia headaches. They are painful and usually begins with the short stabbing pain. However, most people respond well to the medications and the treatment and recover in no time. Occipital neuralgia is different from other types of headaches in two prominent ways. 

  • The cause of occipital neuralgia is different from tension headaches
  • The specific places where occipital neuralgia pain is felt is also different from normal head pain.


Other headaches are caused due to sinus infections, high blood pressure and many other potential triggers but occipital neuralgia headache occurs only when the occipital nerves are injured or irritated. 

The pain usually develops in areas touched by the lesser, greater and the third occipital nerves. The occipital nerve runs from the spine to the scalp, and the sensitivity can develop anywhere along this route. 

Occipital pain usually takes place on a single side of the head, gradually spreading when the skull meets the neck. From there, it travels at the back of the head to the sides and behind the eyes. Most individuals are affected in areas where the occipital nerve connects with each other.

An extreme sensitive feeling is dispersed from the junctions that causes irritation in the eyes due to light. It is not a constant pain that causes occipital neuralgia, instead occipital neuralgia comes in bursts of pain lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes. This further produces a lingering effect and triggers extreme bouts of pain. 

Pain is majorly felt while turning head to the sides, putting your head down on the pillow, or washing the head. Pain felt is quite intense and even worse than a migraine or a cluster headache. That is why all forms of accepted neuralgia pain migraines and tension headaches require different treatments and not a specific one. 

Symptoms Of Occipital Neuralgia

  • Pain in the neck can be more than just a hassle. A lot of bodily disorders can cause pain in the neck, affecting the blocks of the spine and the cervical areas. Every such movement is responsible for the occipital pain. Between the spinal bones, are vertebrate discs that pass through the nerves of the neck. 
  • The pain in the neck is usually because of the presence of a large number of organs, and muscles interacting with each other. These include the neck muscles, trachea, thyroid gland, arteries, veins, parathyroid glands, esophagus, lungs, and the lymph glands. 
  • A lot of the causes can be attributed to the slow meditation, including whiplash or the injury to the neck muscle. Spasms, arthritis of the cervical spine and structural changes to the upper cervical spine frequently cause this type of headache. Other risk factors may include diabetes, inflammation of blood vessels, and also bacterial or viral infection. 
  • Confirming the presence of occipital neuralgia but requires specific diagnosis and a specific test. Physical examination findings are not completely relied upon while diagnosing occipital neuralgia. Any form of marked tenderness is pressured along the occipital nerve, on the region that produces neck pain and the like.
  • Local anesthesia is usually applied in some patients where doctors believe,  performing a nerve block is essential to eliminate the pain. This helps in confirming the diagnosis, an X-Ray, CT scan and MRI of the neck can be advised if an underlying problem is found to cause the symptoms. 

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Causes Of Occipital Neuralgia

Although the causes can range from a typical injury to any other degenerative issues, the following are one of the prominent factors responsible for occipital neuralgia pain. 

  • Back issues such as arteritis spondylosis and degenerating causes pressure on the occipital nerve
  • Enjoy to the net area such as whiplash from a car accident can damage the occipital nerve and lead to after between neuralgia in such case the disease may say as long as a person is alive
  • Muscular problems that include squeeze on the occipital nerve and a 500 and chart on them leading to occipital neuralgia
  • Other factors include diabetes systemic infection gout and other autoimmune diseases that cause occipital neuralgia as a side effect

Treatment Of Occipital Neuralgia

Persistent pain can be reduced by daily medications which include anti-seizure medications, antidepressants and the like. The therapy of occipital nerve blocks using local anesthesia are performed to relieve pain in no time. 

These are gaining success in relieving chronic pain, and providing relief to the patient, for several weeks or up to months. The nerve block therapy combined with physical therapy and daily exercises may include conservative measures. They can help patients counter headaches and do well for many weeks and months.


If conservative treatment options do not respond well, therapies that are known to be successful include:

  • Rhizotomy where the nerve root is completely destroyed to eliminate the pain
  • Neurolysis where heat or a frozen application on different chemicals is made to the nerve block
  • Implantation of an exceptional nerve stimulator

Other ways that include surgery encompasses a decompression surgery to open the area around the nerve and elevate the pain. There is no specific treatment occipital neuralgia however, effective symptomatic treatment options are readily available. 

Home Remedies In Medical Therapies

The medical treatment of occipital neuralgia usually varies with the cause and from person to person. Conservative treatment includes

  • Physical therapy
  • Heat application
  • Massage
  • Muscle relaxants and
  • Anti-inflammatory medications

These are advised as the first-line options for most people. The conservative therapy for an occipital nerve block is effective in relieving the pain.

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