Using Occipital Nerve Blocks for Cervicogenic Headaches

Using Occipital Nerve Blocks for Cervicogenic Headaches

Headaches are a fairly common complaint. Headaches can arise for a number of reasons and may or may not be related to another condition. Cervicogenic headaches are defined as headaches that are caused by some disorder of the neck.

One of the many treatments offered for cervicogenic headaches by San Diego pain management doctors is called the occipital nerve block. Occipital nerve blocks are quick, effective treatments that can provide immediate relief. This article will explain how and why an occipital nerve block can help you with your cervicogenic headaches.

A Bit About Cervicogenic Headaches

Headaches are very common, affecting nearly everyone. Most headaches come and go within the span of a few hours, but about 5% of the population annually experiences headaches so bad that they seek treatment for them.

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To be considered a cervicogenic headache, patients must fulfill a certain set of guidelines set by the International Headache Society (IHS). These criteria are:

  1. Pain referred from a source in the neck and perceived in one or more regions of the head or face fulfilling both criteria 2 and 3
  2. Clinical, laboratory, and/or imaging evidence of a disorder or lesion in the   cervical spine or soft tissues of the neck that is known or accepted to be a valid cause of headache
  3. Evidence that the pain can be attributed to the neck disorder or lesion based on at least one of the following criteria
    1. Demonstrating clinical signs that suggest the source of pain is in the neck
    2. Abolition of the headache after a diagnostic blockade of cervical structure or cervical nerves using placebo or another control
    3. Pain that resolves within 3 months following the successful treatment of the causative disorder or lesion

If you meet these criteria then you most likely are suffering from a cervicogenic headache and may wish to speak with San Diego pain management doctors about an occipital nerve block.

What Is An Occipital Nerve Block?

The purpose of an occipital nerve block is to deliver an anesthetic to the occipital nerves.

Before delivering an occipital nerve block doctors must first confirm the area that is causing the pain. After confirming the diagnosis of a cervicogenic headache, the surface areas protecting the occipital nerves will be prepared by rubbing with betadine and alcohol.

Next, the doctor will administer specific medications to the site using a needle. These drugs are delivered using a 27 gauge syringe. Patients generally remain awake throughout the procedure. It is quick and minimally invasive.

Benefits of Treatment With Occipital Nerve Block

There are a few reasons that this treatment excels over others.

  • Occipital nerve blocks are quick and can deliver immediate relieve
  • This procedure provides relief for a condition that is otherwise very difficult to treat
  • A nerve block reduces the need for surgery or more invasive treatments

If you’re struggling to treat your cervicogenic headaches with conventional methods, don’t hesitate to ask your San Diego pain management doctors about an occipital nerve block.


The occipital nerve block is a unique and effective treatment that can improve the symptoms of cervicogenic headaches. These headaches, which draw their origin from the nerves in the neck, are often difficult to treat. Occipital nerve blocks provide quick and highly efficacious treatment.

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