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Occipital Neuralgia

There are two occipital nerves — one on each side of the head — that help transmit feeling from the back and top of the head to the brain. They run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck up through the scalp. Occipital neuralgia is a neurological condition in which these nerves become injured or inflamed.

More common in women than men, occipital neuralgia can cause sharp, intense pain that is sometimes confused with a migraine or headache. However, it is a different condition that requires targeted diagnosis and treatment.  


  • Intense pain in the back of the head and neck – typically begins at the base of the head and moves up through the scalp
  • Sensitivity to light, pain behind the eye
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Extremely tender or sensitive scalp

Possible Causes

Trauma or whiplash, neck tension, pinched nerve/spinal column compression, cervical disc disease, osteoarthritis, localized infection, neck tumor, blood vessel inflammation, diabetes, gout. Sometime no cause is found.


Your Center for Pain Management physicians will work with you to determine the best treatment plan for your unique case. Possible treatments range from non-invasive therapy and medication to occipital nerve block, radiofrequency, and occipital nerve stimulation.