Overview & Procedure
An occipital nerve block is a minimally invasive procedure that alleviates pain caused by the greater and lesser occipital nerves. These nerves are located at the back of the head above the neck. When the occipital nerves become damaged, they cause headache pain and other symptoms such as a tender scalp, pain behind the eyes, sensitivity to light, and neck pain. An occipital nerve block reduces these pain symptoms by decreasing inflammation in the affected area.
During the procedure, the physician inserts a needle through the skin and deeper tissues to inject an anesthetic and steroid medication solution into the occipital nerves. Patients may experience immediate relief after the initial injection. The injection itself only takes a few minutes to complete. Once the medication has been injected, the patient will be sent to a separate room to recover.
Immediately after the procedure, patients are sent to a separate room to recover. During this time, the patient’s vitals are monitored for any signs of an adverse reaction. Because a sedative is not typically used during an occipital nerve block, patients should be able to drive themselves home after the procedure. Patients should rest and apply ice to the affected area to reduce pain and swelling. The anesthetic should wear off after a few hours, which means the patient may feel some of their pain symptoms return. After 3 to 5 days, the steroid medication should take effect allowing the patient to experience pain relief. The effects from the steroid medication could last anywhere from a few days to several months. Additional injections may be recommended for long-lasting pain relief. Patients should report any signs of infection, fever, swelling, increased pain, and nausea or vomiting to their Southwest Spine and Pain Center physician immediately.