Occipital neuralgia is a neurological condition that involves dysfunction of the occipital nerves. The occipital nerves are two pairs of nerves that originate near the second and third vertebrae of the neck.
Injury to the nerves from trauma, entrapment of the nerves, or inflammation can cause nerve dysfunction. Many times, no cause is found and is termed “idiopathic”. Associated conditions can include cervical spine degeneration, masses affecting the nerves, more systemic illnesses such as diabetes or vasculitis, infections, among many other conditions.
Pain from occipital neuralgia typically starts at the base of the skull by the nape of the neck and may spread to the area behind the eyes and to the back, front and side of the head. The pain often feels sharp and can involve shooting and burning pain.
Nonsurgical treatment options for occipital neuralgia can include medications and injections in the vicinity of the nerve, typically done under imaging guidance.