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Can the Occipital Nerve Cause Chronic Migraine?

I have been experiencing migraines since I was a teenager. Almost 20 years ago I began getting them on an almost daily basis. Thankfully I had an employer who was sympathetic and very understanding. I am still having 17 to 21 migraine days a month. 24 days a month is my personal best.

About 10 years ago I started feeling a painful pinch in the base my neck whenever I tried to perform an activity while standing. I was referred to a spine specialist who took a lot of xrays. Turned out my 5th cervical vertebra was bulging and my 6th vertebra had slipped. I also have spinal stenosis of the cervical spine. It was suggested that I have surgery to fix the problem vertebrae to ease my pain. They dissected and fused my vertebrae together and I was pain free.

Now it’s the present. Not only am I experiencing chronic migraine, but I have just been diagnosed with Occipital Neuralgia. This is a nerve at the base of the neck which comes up behind the ear, around the eye and through the scalp. It can be confused as migraine except it has a sharp pain which lasts only a few seconds. I was referred by my neurologist to the local pain center for an Occipital Nerve Block which are injections into the Occipital Nerve of an anesthetic to ease the nerve and stops the pain almost immediately.

I received the injections and will keep you posted on how well they do. Wish me luck.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • DadOhio1
    3 years ago

    My post concussion headache is 32 years old. My hunt for successful treatment sstarted roughly 30 years ago.
    Lately I’ve been having Radio Frequency Ablations of Cranial nerves, Occipital Nerves and my Sphenopalantine Ganglion. Of the 3 procedures the latter has been a success. The first 2 procedures seem to have auto reversed as the severed nerve reconnected.
    3 forward and 2 back.
    Can anyone point me to a literature that speaks to this treatment? My doc said the nerve might grow back in 12 to 18 months or never if I’m lucky. Well, my experience is that it grew back in a year. I’m headed back for another round next month.

  • witephantom
    3 years ago

    Hello! I have been diagnosed with occipital neuralgia as well, and this has been my migraine experience since then:

    I have two types of headache. One is a ridiculous tingling over part of my skull and a pain that originates at the back of my neck. When this happens and doesn’t resolve for a few days, I get a nerve block shot at the point of origin on the greater occipital nerve and another just above my ear in the lesser occipital nerve. Between the two, my headache is gone in seconds.

    Normally these are triggered by stress, or during long runs when my neck muscles tighten and pinch the nerve. But they are also triggered by my migraines.

    I used to think that I had migraines that lasted for weeks. At the start they were typical migraines – started with an aura, sensitive to light and sound. But after those symptoms wore off, I’d have a headache that remained for another week or two. Finally after doing research, and much trial and error, I found out about occipital neuralgia and took it to a neurologist. The test was simple – did that shot work? It did instantly, and my pain went away until it was triggered anew in a few days.

    Because I was triggering through my long runs, we decided to do nerve ablation on the greater occipital nerve. (Burning the nerve to destroy it semi-permanently.) I had the procedure done, and for six months I was free of those frequent headaches. As well, when I got a normal migraine, my sumatriptan worked far more often than it had previously, and even when it didn’t, my migraine only lasted days, not weeks.

    The nerve has since grown back, but the occipital headaches are far less frequent these days so I haven’t repeated the procedure.

  • Katwoman author
    3 years ago

    Well, so far I haven’t had a migraine. 6 days in a row now (I’ve still had 19 migraines days so far this month).
    To go into more detail, I received the injections, a cocktail of steroids and an analgesic, 12 of them along the occipital nerve from the base of my skull, throughout my scalp and over my right eyebrow. He also put 6 injections along the occipital nerve on my left side for good measure.
    I go back in a month, possibly for another round depending on how things go. I will keep you posted. – Kathleen

  • Joleen1966
    3 years ago

    I wish you luck! Keep us posted.

  • Katwoman author
    3 years ago

    Thank you Joleen1966!

    They haven’t been any help so far. I’ve had 18 migraines so far this month. But I’m going back on the 28th and I am optimistic, or at least trying to be. ;v

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