What is an occipital nerve block?

Occipital nerve blocks involve a small amount of anesthetic and anti-inflammatory medications being injected near the occipital nerves at the back of the head. It can be used to treat migraines and tension headaches. The anesthetic helps numb the pain and the steroid decreases inflammation for more long-term relief. Occipital nerve blocks are minimally invasive and performed in your doctor’s office. You will experience some pain initially when the skin is numbed with a local anesthetic and when the needle is inserted through the skin into the tissues underneath the skin.

Am I a candidate for an occipital nerve block?

You are a candidate for an occipital nerve block if you suffer from migraines, tension headaches, or headaches at the back of the head. You are not a candidate for an occipital nerve block if you are allergic to any of the medications used in the procedure (steroids, anesthetics, or contrast dye), if you have problems with bleeding or clotting, or have an infection of your blood or the skin near the injection site. Be sure to tell your doctor if you take blood thinners such as heparin, Coumadin, or aspirin. You will likely be told to stop taking those medications prior to the procedure, but never stop taking blood thinners without being instructed to do so by your provider. If you have uncontrolled diabetes or congestive heart failure, your condition may worsen with the injection of the steroids. Discuss the risks and benefits of this procedure with your provider.

How long will the occipital nerve block procedure take?

The occipital nerve block only takes a few minutes. You will be placed in a sitting position with your head bent forward. The hair and skin at the base of your neck will be cleaned and a local anesthetic will be injected to numb your skin at the site. Once cleaned and numbed, a needle is inserted into the back of your neck at the base of your skull. A small amount of anesthetic and steroids will be injected. You will be asked to sit still for a few minutes following the procedure.

How long will it take to recover from a occipital nerve block?

Recovery for an occipital nerve block is minimal. You will be observed for roughly 15 minutes after the procedure to ensure no adverse effect or allergic reaction occurs. Additionally, you will be asked about your current pain level to assess for improvement. It isn’t necessary to restrict your activity, but you should plan to take it easy for the day. You can return to work and normal activities the next day.


Occipital nerve block. (n.d.) OhioHealth. Retrieved from http://www.medcentral.org/Main/OccipitalNerveBlock.aspx.