What is an Occipital Nerve block?

This procedure called an occipital nerve block is where a small amount of local anaesthetic with a steroid is injected onto the occipital nerve. The occipital nerve runs from the neck up and over the head. This nerve can become ‘pinched’ at the base of the skull, giving rise to headaches and pain. The Consultant feels that an occipital nerve block may help the pain.

Where is it done?

The procedure is carried out in the Hospital. A letter with directions and instructions will be sent to you.

How is it done?

  • You will be asked to wear a hospital gown
  • You will be asked to sit with your head leaning forward
  • The area to be injected is cleaned with antiseptic
  • The Consultant will numb the area with a local anaesthetic before putting in the injection containing the local anaesthetic and steroid
  • You may experience some mild discomfort as the needle touches the nerve
  • Sedation is not usually required for this procedure. If you feel anxious then you can discuss it with the Consultant prior to the injection being carried out

How long will I be in hospital?

Although the procedure itself takes 15-20 minutes, you will be asked to stay for 1-2 hours before you are allowed home, to make there are no problems. During this time you will be offered a drink and a biscuit.

Can I take my usual tablets?

Take your usual medications in the morning and bring the medications with you. Patients taking warfarin will be given individual information.

Can I eat and drink?

You may have a light early breakfast on the morning of admission.

Can I drive home?

For safety reasons you are asked not to drive home, and that you have someone to collect you. You may also need someone with you for the rest of the day if you are feeling unwell.

What can go wrong?

  • You may experience mild discomfort at the site of the injection; this should last only a short time
  • There may be a local allergic reaction to the drugs contained in the injection, which results in redness and itching. This is not serious although we will need to know for further treatments
  • You may experience a flare up of your pain for a short time following the injection
  • It is normal to have some discomfort at the entry site of the injection for a couple of days. However if the pain is severe or you feel unwell please consult your own Doctor (GP) or the Out of Hours service

Will it work?

Occipital nerve block can be very effective but do not work for everyone. They are easily performed and worth trying.

What happens next?

We will ask you to ring the phone number below and speak to our Clinical Nurse Specialist, in about two weeks from your procedure to give a progress report. Once you progress has been discussed with the Consultant we will contact you and advise what happens next.