Occipital and Cervicogenic Headaches

Find out more about occipital and cervicogenic headaches and how Torrance Pain Institute can help you manage your pain, improve your quality of life, and get back to doing the things you enjoy.

The occipital nerves—located at the top of your spinal cord—give most of the sensations in the back and top of your head. When these are irritated, it may result in pain in the surrounding areas.

What is an occipital headache?

Occipital headache (a.k.a. occipital neuralgia) shows as migraine-like pain that starts at the base of the skull and travels to the back of your eyes. This can also cause pain in the back, side, and front of your head.

Common causes of this headache include osteoarthritis, occipital nerve trauma, occipital nerve compression, cervical disc disease, tumors, diabetes, infection, gout, and blood vessel inflammation.

What is a cervicogenic headache?

Cervicogenic headache is a type of referred pain, which means it originated from a different source—in this case, your spine in the neck area. It’s caused by cervical spine disorders and disorders involving discs or soft tissue.

People with this headache feel worsening pain with certain neck movements, thereby limiting its range of motion. The pain also shows on one side of the face/neck and may radiate behind the eye or to the front of the head.

How are occipital and cervicogenic headaches diagnosed?

While these come from the same source, doctors diagnose them slightly differently:

  • Occipital headaches are diagnosed by putting pressure along the occipital nerve to find any tenderness. If there are abnormal findings, your doctor may order an MRI or a CT scan.
  • Cervicogenic headaches are diagnosed through an x-ray exam, a CT scan, or an MRI.

What is the treatment for occipital and cervicogenic headaches?

To treat occipital and cervicogenic headaches, you may need a greater and lesser occipital nerve block (injecting anesthesia and steroids onto the nerves). Schedule an appointment with our doctor at Torrance Pain Institute today, so we can discuss your options.