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6th of October, 2022: Dr. Duy Duong




There are multiple causes to Occipital Neuralgia. Understanding the underlying cause may help you in alleviating the pain as well as what YOU can do to help improve your daily life.

Occipital neuralgia affects the “Greater Occipital Nerve” which exits your spinal column. This nerve extends from the top of the neck to the forehead. Hence when injured or inflamed, pain from Occipital neuralgia usually follows this route.


Occipital Neuralgia is a type of headache characterised by sharp, throbbing pain in the upper neck, back of head and may go into behind the ears. This type of headache is usually single sided, following the route of the Occipital nerve.


There are many nerves which supply both muscles in skin in the head. In this blog post we will focus on the occipital nerve, specifically the Greater Occipital nerve. This spinal nerve originates between the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae and ascends upwards; piercing through the muscles at the back of the neck and runs towards the forehead.


Inflammation of the Greater occipital nerve typical occurs locally, and is caused due to the compression of the surrounding musculature and joints. These compression will exert pressure onto the Occipital nerve, causing pain along this nerve route.

In terms of tight and tender musculature of the neck and head, a forward head carriage may causes the upper trapezius as well as other local muscle muscles to work harder and contribute to the inflammation of the Greater Occipital nerve.




The inflammation and irritation of the Greater Occipital nerve may lead to presentations such as:

  • One sided sharp pains from the back of the ears into the forehead

  • Pain behind the eye when worse

  • May present as sharp, burning, throbbing, electric shock like pains when at its worse and aching numbness and tingling when it settles.

  • Triggered by neck movements

  • Overly sensitive scalp

  • Affected neck movements


How can Chiropractic care help?

There are no distinct tests which can identify Occipital Neuralgia. A combination of history, signs and symptoms, physical examinations and medical imaging are usually used in order to help identify you pain.


Medically, anti-inflammatories are the first line of defence. This aids to help reduce the inflammation of the surrounding structures. Cortisone injections, nerve blockers and nerve ablations may be used if there is chronic persistent Occipital neuralgia.

Case studies have also found that a range of Chiropractic modalities may help relieve pain, increase range of motion and offer beneficial impacts on Occipital Neuralgia.  

The diagnosis of your Occipital Neuralgia will involve the doctor doing a physical examination, palpation, orthopaedic tests, muscle tests, range of motion assessment, functional tests, neuromuscular exam, and diagnostic imaging such as an ultrasound or x-ray.


Your chiropractor will assist in:

  • Carefully and accurately diagnose your condition

  • Perform soft or deep tissue massage to alleviate muscular tension and pain

  • Implement spinal manipulative techniques to enforce joint movement and ease disc-related symptoms

  • Prescribe stretches and rehabilitative exercises

  • Recommend advice and lifestyle changes

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