Occipital neuralgia is one of the many kinds of headaches people can present with in the clinic. This one in particular is common for osteopaths to see, as it often has a musculoskeletal cause.
The occipital nerve exits the spine at the second vertebrae of the neck, before coming up through the muscles at the base of the skull, and over the top of the head. This is a particularly complicated part of our anatomy – and one that is often compromised by modern life.
Additional symptoms of occipital neuralgia can include pain on one or both sides of the head, throbbing or shooting pain travelling up and over the scalp, pain behind the eye, a tender scalp, aggravated pain when moving the neck, or even nausea and vomiting.
It can be suprising then for patients to learn that these extreme symptoms can have a very simple cause. Poor working desk postures, spending a long time looking at phones and tablets, amongst other things can wreak havoc with the way the top of your neck operates – resulting in compressive forces on the occipital nerve.
Manual therapy can help alleviate the symptoms of occipital neuralgia by loosening the tight muscles that compress the nerve, giving exercises to improve a person’s posture and the way they carry the weight of the head on the neck, and even going to the length of giving a proper ergonomic assessment of the patient’s desk set up, ensuring the pain doesn’t return.