Occipital neuralgia is nerve pain due to inflammation and injury to the occipital nerve in the brain. This condition is often mistaken for a migraine or headache because of similar symptoms.
The occipital nerve regulates the work and movement of the upper part of the spine (cervical) to the base of the skull. This is what causes the emergence of the main symptoms of occipital neuralgia, namely headache in the back (base of the skull).
Occipital neuralgia is often undiagnosed because it is similar to migraine or other headaches. That’s why you need to know how to distinguish occipital neuralgia from other headaches to help make the diagnosis. Because, how to handle it is very different.
Overview of occipital neuralgia
Occipital neuralgia can be a primary or secondary type of headache. For the primary type, the cause is unknown. As for the secondary type, headaches are usually associated with underlying diseases, such as tumors, trauma, infections, systemic diseases, or bleeding.
Occipital neuralgia can also be triggered due to neck muscle problems. Stiff and stiff neck muscles can compress the occipital nerve for a long period of time, resulting in inflammation or injury to the occipital nerve. Arthritis, bone degeneration, or spondylosis (the process of deteriorating function in the spine) can also cause pressure on the occipital nerve.
How to distinguish occipital neuralgia and migraine
The main symptom of occipital neuralgia is a headache on the back, precisely at the base of the skull. In addition, it also found a burning and throbbing sensation that can disappear. This headache can spread to the neck, but in some cases also found to spread to the back of the eye and surrounding areas.
Symptoms of occipital neuralgia are often associated with migraines because of the pain that only attacks one side of the head. Whereas in cases of occipital neuralgia, pain can also affect both sides of the head.
Make a diagnosis of occipital neuralgia
Diagnosis of occipital neuralgia is apparently not easy. Special examinations are needed in addition to medical interviews and physical examinations.
Your doctor may recommend an MRI and CT scan for. The doctor can also provide nerve blocks to check whether the pain caused comes from the occipital nerve.
Neurologists can help identify occipital neuralgia through one or several methods, such as:
Ask the patient’s history. If the pain starts in the neck and then runs up to the eyebrows, it is a typical symptom of occipital neuralgia.
Basic inspection. For example, doctors can reproduce pain by applying pressure to the occipital nerve at the base of the skull.
The use of nerve blocks. If the pain disappears after the occipital nerve is numbed, then the culprit is most likely the occipital neuralgia.
Migraines tend to have triggers that can be identified and can be accompanied by aura (visual disturbances and other symptoms that precede headaches). Well, occipital neuralgia generally does not have such characteristics.
Treatment of occipital neuralgia
If included in the type of primary headache, doctors can only reduce or control pain. However, if included in the secondary type, the underlying disease must be detected and treated first.
The following are some treatments that can be an option when occipital neuralgia attacks, namely:
Compress the neck and base of the head using a warm cloth.
1. Lie down or take a break from activities.
2. Find a quiet and comfortable place to cool off.
3. If possible, gently massage the neck and back of the head.
4. Take pain medications.
5. The use of muscle relaxants, antidepressants, seizures, steroids, and nerve blocks.
6. If the above methods are still unable to also cope with pain due to occipital neuralgia, the doctor can consider the surgical procedure. To prevent recurrence of these conditions, you avoid these things:
Perform heavy activities such as extreme sports, especially in the neck and head.
1. Lift heavy loads.
2. The habit of ringing the neck.
3. Sleep position that is not ideal.
At this point, do not be mistaken for occipital neuralgia for migraines or other headaches. Recognizing the difference can be a “provision” you consult a doctor, so that the diagnosis can be established and the condition of the headache can be treated appropriately.