An occipital nerve block is the injection of a steroid into the occipital nerves, which are located at the back of the head, just above the neck. This procedure can be painful, so it is only recommended in cases where there is swelling, irritation, and pain around the area of the occipital nerves. As with most kinds of nerve block injections, a local anesthetic is applied to the site before the injection of the medication being used. Occipital nerve block injections are most effective in treating CRPS if the injection is given
very shortly after the diagnosis of CRPS.
Treating CRPS with Occipital Nerve Block
An occipital nerve block is not a very common treatment for patients afflicted with CRPS. An occipital nerve block should only be used in cases where a patient is experiencing debilitating headaches due to CRPS. Occipital nerve block treatment for CRPS should not be the only form of treatment that a patient is undergoing for RSD. Most physicians recommend a combination of drug therapy and physical therapy to properly treat CRPS.
If a patient shows favorable results after being given an occipital nerve block injection, the physician will usually want to administer another injection within a few weeks after the first. Nerve block treatment is progressive, so patients typically display better results after subsequent treatments. If a patient shows no results after the first occipital nerve block injection, the physician will seek other forms of treatment.
Other Nerve Block Options
More commonly, physicians utilize other forms of nerve block injections to treat CRPS. These include epidural nerve block injections, also known as stellate ganglion block injections, and lumbar nerve block injections. These sites are linked to the sympathetic nervous system. Epidural nerve block injections are recommended for patients that are experiencing CRPS symptoms in the upper body, particularly the arms. Lumbar nerve block injections are commonly given to patients that are suffering from CRPS
symptoms in their lower body, particularly the legs.
Occipital Nerve Block Injection
Prior to the injection, the physician will clean the injection site with an antiseptic. This is at the back of the head, so hair must be sanitized or removed. The injection itself takes only a few minutes, but doctors will typically schedule a period of at least forty-five minutes afterward to observe the patient in case of any adverse reactions, and to allow the patient to relax.
After Occipital Nerve Block Injection
After the injection, the pain may lessen or temporarily subside. This is due to the anesthetic, and patients should not use this as a sign that the treatment is working. Usually, the anesthesia will wear off within a few hours, and the patient will feel soreness around the site of the injection. This is in part due to the size of the needle that must be used, but the medication itself often irritates the tissue for a few hours after it is administered as well. It may be a few days after an occipital nerve block treatment
before a patient begins to feel relief of their CRPS symptoms.
Patients can typically drive themselves home after an occipital nerve block treatment. Due to the soreness that is typically experienced following an occipital nerve block injection, patients are often advised to rest for the remainder of the day.
Occipital Nerve Block Risks
As with any form of treatment, there are certain risks associated with occipital nerve block treatment. These risks are not particularly common. Risks are greatly decreased when an experienced CRPS physician is in charge of the procedure, and proper sanitization and sterilization techniques are followed.
Occipital nerve block risks include:
• Nerve damage
• Allergic Reaction to medication
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