Occipital Nerve Root Blocks
A greater occipital nerve block involves injecting medication around the greater occipital nerve to relieve pain. The greater occipital nerve travels through the muscles at the back of the head and into the scalp providing sensation to the back and top of the scalp.
Greater occipital nerve blocks are commonly used for patients with a unilateral headache, mainly at the back of the head. This block may also be used in patients with occipital neuralgia experiencing shooting, zapping, stinging, or burning pain in the back of the head. Patients with migraines, cluster headaches, and other painful conditions may also obtain temporary relief with this block.
During the procedure, you will lie down on an examination table. Then your doctor locates the greater occipital nerve by palpation of the scalp. The skin is cleansed with alcohol and your doctor injects a local anesthetic and steroid mix with a fine needle, over the area of the trunk of the nerve. The injected region becomes numb, often relieving pain.
The anesthetic effect wears off over several hours and the steroid begins to act over the next few days. This helps provide pain relief for several days to a few months.
Risks and complications are rare but can include infection, nerve or blood vessel injury, and allergic reaction to medications. You may also feel dizzy for a short period of time. Sometimes, thinning of the scalp at the injection site and hair loss may also occur.