Migraines can stop your day in its tracks. This debilitating neurological condition can affect work, school, and home life. Migraines are becoming increasingly common in our nation. In fact, more than 15 percent of American’s aged 18 years or older have reported a migraine or severe headache in the past 3 months, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Treatment for migraines differs from medications to procedures based on the individual and their medical history. Occipital Nerve Blocks is a minimally invasive, in office procedure which aims to relieve pain and inflammation in the back of the head. No one should have to suffer through headaches or migraines if they can be prevented.
What is an Occipital Nerve Block procedure?
An Occipital Nerve Block is an injection of an anesthetic and steroid into the occipital region (the back, lower portion) of the head. Occipital Nerve Blocks offer immediate pain relief and relieve inflammation over the course of a few days or weeks. An Occipital Nerve block can be repeated every few months or so, which means if you have chronic headaches or migraines, you could receive treatment as much as three or four times a year depending on your doctor’s recommendation. This procedure is often done in conjunction with other kinds of nerve blocks that target other areas of the head including the supraorbital nerve block (around the brow area) and the supratrochlear nerve block (lower forehead).
What does the procedure look like?
The procedure is done in-office while you are awake and seated. Most patients experience a sting of the needle going in and then pressure as the medication is administered. The immediate effect of the procedure is numbness in the area from the anesthesia. People often report feeling pain-relief several days after the procedure. Although the nerve block is temporary, its effects can last for up to several months. Providers may administer a second injection for patients who don’t experience noticeable results after the initial procedure.
“Most of my patients are able to resume their regular day,” said board certified neurologist, Maria Guina, MD of TPMG Neurology at Williamsburg. “Most patients are even able to drive themselves home after their appointment.”
What are the risks?
This procedure might not be right for everyone. For those who have difficulty controlling blood sugar, the steroid in this injection might offer complications that you should discuss with your provider. Additionally, those who are allergic to steroids or anesthetics or on blood thinners are not good candidates for this procedure. There is a small risk of infection, so if you have an active infection near the injection site, the procedure is not recommended.
Beside reactions to the injections, which are discussed during the screening process, the risk associated with Occipital Nerve Blocks is relatively small. Temporary side effects can include injection pain or bleeding at the site of the injection. Those who chronically receive nerve blocks might notice some hair loss around the injection site as well as scar tissue.
Who is a good candidate for this procedure?
Typically, physicians will try less invasive treatments before consider the nerve block. There are oral medications, IV medications, and intramuscular abortive (rescue) medications that are helpful for the treatment of recent onset pain, but less successful at treating long standing pain. Nerve blocks can also treat more than just headaches and migraines. They can also manage pain or sensation from spondylosis of the cervical facet joints, cervicogenic migraines (headaches that come from a problem in the neck), and occipital neuralgia (inflamed nerves).
Do you need Migraine Relief or are you considering Migraine Treatment Options?
No one should have to suffer through the pain of migraines alone. If you are interested in trying Occipital Nerve Blocks, talk to a TPMG neurologist today to find long lasting relief.
About Dr. Maria Guina, MD
Maria Guina MD, is a fellowship trained, board certified neurologist who treats all neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease (PD), multiple sclerosis (MS), seizures, epilepsies, stroke, migraines and other types of headaches, among other neurological disorders. Her special interests include epilepsy, Women’s health, neurotoxin treatment for spasticity, and movement disorders.
Dr. Guina practices at TPMG Neurology at Williamsburg.