Occipital Headache Treatment Specialist

Pain Care Boise

Pain Medicine located in Boise, ID

Occipital headaches cause intense pain that begins at the bottom of your head and spreads to the scalp. When your pain doesn’t improve with conservative medical care, it’s time to consider occipital headache treatments at Pain Care Boise in downtown Boise, Idaho. William Binegar, MD, and Christopher Vaughan, MD, have extensive experience using advanced interventional treatments to help patients overcome their pain. To learn more about your occipital headache treatment choices, call the office or book an appointment online.

Occipital Headache Treatment Q&A

What is an occipital headache?

An occipital headache, also called occipital neuralgia, begins in your neck and the base of your head, then spreads up into your scalp. These severe headaches happen when the occipital nerves running from your upper spine to your scalp and ears are damaged or pinched.

The auricular nerve can also contribute to occipital headaches. This nerve travels into the skin over the lower back part of your scalp.

Conditions that pinch the nerves and cause occipital headaches include:

  • Neck tension
  • Facet arthritis in the upper neck
  • Trauma to the occipital nerves
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Spinal tumors
  • Muscle trigger points
  • Prior spine fusion
  • Jaw problems

Occipital headaches are often associated with migraine headaches that begin in the occipital region at the back of your brain.

What symptoms indicate I need occipital headache treatments?

Occipital headaches cause symptoms like:

  • Continuous aching, burning, or throbbing pain
  • Occasional electric-shock or shooting pain
  • Pain behind the eyes
  • Forehead pain
  • Tenderness to the slightest touch
  • Sensitivity to light

Most patients describe the pain as piercing or severe.

What occipital headache treatments might I receive?

The first-line treatments for occipital headaches include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), anti-seizure medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic care.

If you undergo these treatments and still have occipital headaches, it’s time to consider interventional treatments at Pain Care Boise. These treatments include:

Steroid injections

The team at Pain Care Boise do ultrasound- or X-ray-guided injections to precisely treat nerves, facet joints, and muscle trigger points. Steroids reduce inflammation, which in turn relieves nerve pain.

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)

Radiofrequency ablation creates a wound on the nerves. The wound blocks the pain messages that normally travel from the nerve to your brain. If your brain doesn’t get the message, your pain goes away. This treatment can target the occipital nerve or the nerves serving the facet joints.

Before you have RFA, your provider does a diagnostic nerve block. This procedure involves injecting an anesthetic at the targeted nerve. If the anesthetic relieves your pain, you can undergo the procedure.

Peripheral nerve stimulation (PNS)

Your provider places tiny electrodes above the nerves causing your occipital headache. The electrodes are connected to a microchip that sends mild electrical impulses into the nerve. These impulses block the pain signals, preventing them from reaching your brain.

To be considered for PNS, you first have a nerve block targeting the occipital nerve. If an injection of a local anesthetic relieves your pain, you move on to a PNS trial.

During the trial, the PNS electrodes are placed under the skin near the nerve. After wearing the electrodes for a short time, you can decide if they relieve your pain enough to implant the wires and microchip receiver.

Your provider implants the PNS components using anesthesia and a small incision that allows them to place all the pieces under your skin. After the device is implanted, you need to wear a small antenna in an undergarment to stimulate the receiver microchip.

If you suffer from occipital headaches, relief is available at Pain Care Boise. Book an appointment online or call today.