Most people experience headaches at one point or another. Whether it’s from computer eye strain, a stressful day, or chronic conditions such as migraine, everyone can understand the misery that comes from head pain. There are dozens of causes, and in this post, we’ll discuss two similar conditions, what causes them and what can be done to treat them after diagnosis by a medical provider.
Both cervical pain and occipital neuralgia can cause intense, migraine-like headaches. In mild or moderate cases, both conditions receive similar conservative treatment. However, the causes of each condition are different and affect what action should be taken to prevent recurrence or progression.
Cervical pain, or cervical spondylosis, is caused by ligaments, tendons and other connective tissues in the cervical spine (neck) wearing down. It is often accompanied by muscle pain and/or tightness, as well as a clicking or grinding sound when moving the neck. Cervical spondylosis can be a result of the natural aging process, repetitive stress on the neck, or acute injuries. In addition to headaches, cervical pain can also cause numbness or tingling in the fingers, hands and arms.
Many cases of cervical pain can be managed with home care, including proper stretching, ice and/or heat therapy, and over-the-counter medications. Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy. Because cervical pain is typically caused by a degeneration of tissue in the cervical spine, treatment is aimed at reducing pain and progression. Severe cases may require surgical intervention to provide relief if home treatment and physical therapy fail.
Occipital neuralgia is a chronic condition in which the occipital nerves, which are located under the scalp, become injured or inflamed. This causes shooting or tingling pain behind the ears or in the back of the neck. While cervical pain has symptoms such as clicking or numbness, the only symptom of occipital neuralgia is typically pain located in the head and upper neck. Head pain caused by occipital neuralgia can be consistent and intense, often set off by a light touch or minor movement.
Because occipital neuralgia is characterized by intense head pain, it is often misdiagnosed as migraine disorder or cluster headaches. Proper diagnosis is important for effective treatment and long-term management.
Treatment of occipital neuralgia is similar to that of cervical pain. Rest, physical therapy, ice and/or heat, and over-the-counter medication often help manage symptoms. Nerve-blocking agents or surgical interventions such as nerve stimulation may be recommended in some cases. There is no cure for occipital neuralgia, but proper home care and management can provide sustained relief.
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Contact the specialists at Commonwealth Spine & Pain for all your pain management needs.