Occipital Nerve Blocks

Occipital Nerve Block with or without Radiofrequency

The occipital nerves travel from the cervical spine in the neck to the back of the head and scalp. These nerves can be irritated by muscle spasm, arthritic changes or by neck injuries. You may be experiencing headaches which typically start in the back of the neck and spread towards the forehead. Occipital nerve blocks with steroids or radio frequency can often help with the treatment of these kinds of headaches.


How does it work?
When nerves are irritated they produce pain symptoms that can travel along the nerve path. In order to diminish or resolve your headaches, I must stop this signal. This is done utilizing radiofrequency, lidocaine (a strong numbing agent) or dehydrated alcohol, at the physician's discretion. The procedure is completed in my office. Unless steroids are used in conjunction (to reduce inflammation) this procedure only blocks the pain signal that travels from the irritated nerve to your brain. It does NOT heal or correct your diagnosis. The entire procedure is completed under x-ray guidance, and takes only a few minutes to complete.


How long until I feel better?
The response to treatment varies from individual to individual. However, most patients usually obtain immediate relief of discomfort. Occasionally, the pain will return (but decreased) after a few hours, and this is not uncommon as the initial local anesthetic I used is wearing off at this time. Rest assured, use ice, and give yourself a few days to achieve true results. This is a safe, conservative procedure, and therefore it occasionally must be repeated.


What are the risks?
Occipital Nerve blocks are a minimally invasive procedure; risks include infection and bleeding, increased pain, allergic reaction, hypotension, continued headache and nerve irritation at the site. You may experience an increase in your typical headaches, for several days.


What is the recovery?
After your procedure we will keep you in our office recovery area, where your vital signs are monitored by licensed staff for the above listed adverse conditions. Most of our patients are able to leave the office and return to work or home, driving themselves and having no ill effects.


After Your Procedure:

  • Increase your intake of fluids today. If you can tolerate caffeine, include some caffeinated beverages.
  • Perform the prescribed exercises every morning before you get out of bed and every night before you go to bed.
  • Do not soak in water today. You may shower today, but do not take a bath and do not go to the pool or hot tub today. Begin your water exercises tomorrow.
  • Remove your bandage later today.
  • No hot packs to the injection area today. If the site of your injection bothers, you place ice on the site for 15 minutes every hour as needed.
  • Do not hesitate to contact your doctor for unusually severe back or neck pain, fever, chills, stiff neck, headache, inability to urinate, redness or drainage from the injection site, or new onset of leg/arm burning, muscle spasms, numbness, or weakness.

IF YOU EXPECT A CALL BACK FROM YOUR PHYSICIAN AND YOU HAVE CALLER ID BLOCK, YOU MUST REMOVE THE BLOCK OR YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE A CALL BACK FROM THE PHYSICIAN. If you are unable to reach your doctor, go to the emergency room for evaluation and they will notify your doctor.

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External links for additional info
American Medical Association
Memorial Hospital West
Memorial Hospital Pembroke
Sheridan HealthCare
American Osteopathic Association
American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians

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