What triggers occipital neuralgia, and how to treat it at home?

what triggers occipital neuralgia
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What triggers occipital neuralgia, and how to treat it at home?

Have you ever felt pain in the base of your skull that lasts from a few seconds, minutes or hours? If yes, this article may help you to find its triggers and home treatment.

Occipital neuralgia is a stabbing pain in the occipital nerves. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4810328/ 

Triggers of Occipital Neuralgia:

Mostly occipital neuralgia occurs spontaneously in individuals due to pinching of the occipital nerve caused by an injury, tumor, or surgery.

Occipital neuralgia occurs due to the compression or irritation of occipital nerves at their anatomical points. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538281/ 

  • Osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis in the cervical spine of the human body is also a significant cause of occipital neuralgia. This may cause degenerative changes in the bones.
  • Inflammation of Blood vessel in the neck region. Any inflammation in blood vessels, or muscles of your neck cause thickening, and weakening of occipital nerves and result in occipital neuralgia. 
  • Gout. Gout can also be a rare cause of occipital neuralgia in the human body. In gout, crystal formation occurs in the joints due to excess uric acid in the blood. In gout, the hands and feet joints are mostly affected, but this condition can also affect the cervical spine. https://www.medicinenet.com/occipital_neuralgia/article.htm
  • Cervical Disc Disease (Cervical Spondylosis) With aging, the cervical disc in the human body starts to degenerate over time. This can result in stiffening of the cervical disc in the cervical spine due to loss of fluid. The rigid cervical disc results in pressure on the occipital nerves, ultimately causing occipital neuralgia.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes and occipital neuralgia have strong correlations. Diabetes results in diabetic neuropathy, in which the nerves (including occipital nerves) are inflamed. The increased blood sugar level is also responsible for the cause of headaches in diabetes. 
  • Anatomical factors. The tightening of muscles in the head area’s neck and back can cause pinching or compression in the occipital nerves resulting in occipital neuralgia. The tightening of muscles may result from physical stress or mental stress. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6248704/ 
  • Infections and Tumors. Both infections and very rarely, tumors in cervical regions can increase pressure on occipital nerves resulting in occipital neuralgia. 

How to treat occipital neuralgia at home?

At home, you can try certain therapeutic remedies to get relief from occipital neuralgia, we find a an inexpensive neck massager works wonders for our pain and this article about finding a comfortable sleeping position can make a big difference.

Some of the authenticated therapies are described below;

  • Apply heat or cold to the affected areas.
    Warm or cold compresses are great to relieve the muscular tension in occipital neuralgia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7606364/#CR11  For some people, cold treatment (using an ice cube) can be the best option to relieve the pain in the affected area.  However, some people get more relief from pain with the help of heating treatments. You can simply use a heated pad on your affected area. The heating effect increases the blood flow in blood vessels and helps the tightened muscles revert to their flexible shape.
  • Massage the affected area to strengthen the muscles.
    A gentle massage on your affected areas is also great for improving blood flow rate and relaxing muscles. Both massage and physical therapy are great to reduce the muscular tension in the human body. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7606364/ 
  • Use anti-inflammatory over the counter medicine to get relief.
    To reduce inflammation and pain caused by occipital neuralgia, you can use NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Ensure to read the complete instructions before using.
  • Therapeutic physical exercises.
    According to a study, people who exercise have less neck pain, frequency, and intensity of headaches than non-exercising people in occipital neuralgia. But it would be best if you did exercise regularly. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3649358/#b66 
  • Start a ketogenic diet plan.
    A ketogenic diet (low in carbs and high in fats) effectively treats headaches caused by occipital neuralgia. You can do some physical exercises or therapies (that can stretch and strengthen your muscles) along with a keto diet to maintain a healthy lifestyle. https://www.medicinenet.com/occipital_neuralgia/article.htm 
    You can maintain a healthy lifestyle related to diet, sleep, and stress to reduce triggers of occipital neuralgia. 
  • Use topical medicines to treat occipital neuralgia 
    As the topical medicines are applied over the skin, these are safer to use than oral drugs due to less drastic side effects, such as drug addiction or anti-microbial resistance. Some of the best topical medicines are the following;
  • Xylocaine
  • Lidocaine patch
  • Zostrix
  • EMLA cream

Make sure to read the full instructions of any medicine before using it. https://paindoctor.com/how-to-treat-occipital-neuralgia/ Always consult a health professional before beginning any therapy at home.

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