Occipital neuralgia is pain resulting from trauma to the lesser and/or greater occipital nerves, located in the back of the head. This pain can be felt in the upper back, neck and behind the ears and is usually sharp and shock-like in nature. Numbness can also occur in these regions. It can be difficult to differentiate from other headaches like migraines and tension headaches.
Occipital neuralgia is caused by any insult to the occipital nerves. Injury to the scalp, including head trauma is a possible cause. Tight occipital musculature leading to pinched nerves can also be a contributing factor to this condition. Inflammation in the area can lead to irritation of the nerves, which can then lead to pain. Often times, it is difficult for physicians to pinpoint as exact cause.
Diagnosing Occipital Neuralgia
An anesthetic nerve block to the occipital nerve causing relief of pain is diagnostic for occipital neuralgia. True occipital neuralgia is rare. Usually, it is a secondary factor to an underlying condition, such as migraines that lead to irritating inflammation to the occipital nerves.
How Magnesium Helps
Spasms of musculature surrounding occipital nerves have been thought to worsen occipital neuralgia pain. Therapeutic doses of magnesium have been shown to decrease muscle spasms. Magnesium also helps with nerve health and the transmission of signals through the nervous system. Magnesium also dilates blood vessels. Vasodilation would help occipital neuralgia secondary to other forms of headaches -- specifically, migraines.
The symptoms of occipital neuralgia are vague and can be associated with other conditions. It is important to discuss this condition with your doctor before starting any treatment regimen on your own. Once your doctor has diagnosed your condition as occipital neuralgia, discuss with her how much magnesium you should take and what form would be best for you.
- John Hopkins Medicine: Occipital Neuralgia
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: Occipital Neuralgia Information Page
- “The Magnesium Miracle”; Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D.; 2003