If you’re experiencing sudden, severe pain in your upper neck, the back of your head, or behind your ears on one side of your head, chances are you have occipital neuralgia. This is a chronic disorder that occurs as a result of irritation of the occipital nerves – the two pairs of nerves that originate near the second and third vertebrae of the neck.
Curious to know more? Here’s all you need to know about this rare but painful condition.
Symptoms Of Occipital Neuralgia
- The primary symptom of this condition is the piercing, throbbing, or electric-shock-like pain that usually starts at the base of the skull and then radiates near the back or along the side of the scalp. The pain normally lasts for a short period of time – anywhere between a few seconds and a few minutes.
- You may also experience pain behind the eye on the affected side.
- Occipital neuralgia causes sensitivity to the lightest touch – it is triggered quickly even by routine activities like brushing your hair or resting your head on a pillow. It is this characteristic that differentiates it from migraines and regular headaches.
- You may also have numbness or tenderness in the affected area – especially in the region where the occipital nerves enter the scalp.1
Causes Of Occipital Neuralgia
Although this condition is usually caused by irritated occipital nerves, it could be the result of other conditions like:2
- Osteoarthritis of the upper cervical spine (where your spine begins in the neck)
- Tumors affecting nerve roots
- Inflammation of blood vessels
- Pressure on the nerves as a result of tight muscles
- Chronic tension in the neck
- Prior injury
3 Ways To Treat Occipital Neuralgia At Home
While doctors may recommend anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants to treat this condition, you could try these 3 simple methods to treat occipital neuralgia at home. Remember to consult your doctor before you try these remedies.
1. Try The Corpse Pose (Shavasana)
This is a yoga pose meant for restoration and is ideal for occipital pain as rest aids in healing such pain.
- Lie flat on your back.
- Place a pillow or a folded towel below your head if necessary.
- Ensure that your arms are next to your body with your palms facing up and your legs are resting in a natural position.
- Place cucumbers on your eyes to feel further relaxed.
- Stay in this position for 20–30 minutes for complete relaxation.
2. Do The Sub-Occipital Neck Stretch
- Sit straight on a chair with your head and neck in line with your spine.
- Place the middle and index fingers of your right hand on your chin.
- Push your chin backward gently while keeping your mouth closed.
- Try to move just your head back. You’ll feel the back and sides of your neck as well as the base of your skull stretching. Hold the stretch for a few seconds and then release.
- Do this a few times a day for relief.
3. Try Neck Extension And Flexion Exercises
These exercises help in relieving any stress in your neck and can loosen any tight muscles.
- Sit on a chair with your hands on your knees.
- Ensure that you sit straight with your head and neck in line with your spine.
- Look forward first and then slowly lean back so that you look at the ceiling.
- Hold this position for a few seconds and then move your head back to the resting position.
- Now, bend your head forward slowly so that your chin points to your chest.
- Hold for a few seconds and then rest your head in the initial position.
- Do this for 5–10 times reps.
- Massaging can also ease the symptoms of occipital neuralgia. It can increase the blood and oxygen flow, healing the damaged nerves much faster.
- Avoid poor posture like hunching over and bending your neck down to prevent pressure on the nerves.
- Heat therapy and rest are also ideal ways to treat this condition.
These simple exercises and tips will reduce your symptoms without any medication, making you feel at ease. However, if you continue to experience the symptoms for a long time, consult your doctor immediately.