Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is a condition that can cause recurring pain on the back of the head, upper neck and behind the ears or eyes. Pinching or irritation of occipital nerves can trigger headaches or migraines.

If you are experiencing severe or persistent headaches, it is recommended that you visit a neurologist or head and neck specialist to receive a proper diagnosis.

Surgical treatment options for occipital neuralgia

There are nonsurgical and surgical treatment options for occipital neuralgia.

For those who only get short-term relief from nonsurgical treatments, such as nerve blocks, surgery may be an option. Nerve decompression surgery, a relatively new type of surgery, has been shown to be effective in a significant number of patients.

At Cedars-Sinai, our highly skilled surgeons specialize in nerve decompression surgery to treat occipital neuralgia.

At Cedars-Sinai, you'll experience:

Best-in-class Medical Care

Cedars-Sinai is consistently recognized as one of the top hospitals in the U.S., ranked nationally in multiple specialties by U.S. News & World Report. We are committed to providing our patients with the best available treatment options.

Trained Specialists

Our world-renowned physicians diagnose and treat common and rare neurological conditions. Getting the right diagnosis is often the first step in treating occipital neuralgia.

The Latest in Surgical Technology

Surgeons at Cedars-Sinai utilize the most technologically advanced techniques to perform nerve decompression surgery.

A Patient-focused Approach

We work with each patient to determine a course of treatment suited to their individual needs.

Nerve decompression surgery

During nerve decompression surgery, the occipital nerves are carefully freed from the muscle, fascia, scar tissue or blood vessels that are causing compression of the nerve. This type of outpatient surgery typically takes less than two hours and most patients go home the same day.

Many patients who undergo nerve decompression surgery have successful outcomes. In one study, 89.5% of nerve decompression surgery patients had complete resolution of headaches, while an additional 6.6% experienced significant relief and no longer needed additional treatment for head or neck pain.

To gain access to the nerves, some shaving of hair is usually required on the central portion of the back of the head. The area tends to hide well if you have medium to long hair. 

Recovery from nerve decompression surgery

Following surgery, most patients have fewer headaches or see a reduction in migraines in the first week or two. Patients may experience some numbness or tingling. This is due to the nerves recovering from a compressed, irritated state.

The surgical area should be kept dry for two days and then showering can be resumed carefully. For a week or two after surgery, some soreness around the incision is common.

Have Questions or Need Help?

Call us or send a message in My CS-Link™ to our occipital neuralgia surgery team. You can also have us call you back at your convenience.

7 days a week, 6 am - 9 pm PT