sleep with occipital neuralgia

How to Sleep With Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital Neuralgia is generated by an injury to the occipital nerve or irritation to it which may have been caused by:


  • An injury to the back of the head
  • Neck muscles that have become too tight
  • The nerves being compressed as they leave the spinal column
  • Tumors
  • Infections
  • Blood vessel inflammation
  • Gout
  • Diabetes
  • Frequent or lengthy periods of keeping the head in a downward or forward position
  • Other types of laceration in the neck

The occipital nerve is formed from branches of the second and third cervical nerve roots. It passes up the back of the head, piercing through the muscles of the upper neck and then curves over the back of the head to the frontal area. This nerve stops at approximately where the hair line ends. When it becomes irritated from the various reasons listed; it causes Occipital Neuralgia with painful symptoms.

People who suffer from Occipital Neuralgia disorder will have severe headaches that will cause a throbbing or piercing type pain in their top portion of the neck, back of the ears or in the rear of the head. It can also cause pain in the forehead, behind the eyes and you will also experience sensitivity to light. Your scalp may be sensitive or painful to touch as the location of the pain is related to the area supplied by the occipital nerves.

When pain is brought on by this disorder it will be difficult to sleep with Occipital Neuralgia. To get a good night’s rest, there are some things you can do to ease the pain.

How to Treat Pain to Sleep With Occipital Neuralgia With Medications

The best way to get good night’s sleep when suffering from Occipital Neuralgia is to treat the pain that is keeping you awake. Your physician may be able to prescribe oral medication to alleviate some of the pain and there are some over-the-counter medications that may work for you also. Look for those that will decrease inflammation and spasms to decrease pain. There is a catch however. Too much use of analgesics will cause medication overuse headaches that will add to the existing Occipital Neuralgia pain.

In some cases anti-epileptic meds or anti-depressants have been used to treat the pain associated with Occipital Neuralgia. Nerve blocks and injections of anesthetics with or without steroids into the affected areas have brought relief to many but this may require repeat injections.

How to Treat The Pain Without Medications In Order to Sleep With Occipital Neuralgia

Symptomatic treatment can include a massage and rest. Tight muscles can cause pressure on the nerves and other tissue in the neck and head which is often associated with other types of headaches. This can also be the case for those caused by Occipital Neuralgia. Doing stretching exercises, Epsom salt baths and using some relaxation techniques can help to relax these tightened muscles and ease the pain.

Heat is another method of reducing the symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia. The use of a heating pad on the muscle at the base of the skull, warm gel packs, heat wraps or even moist cloths heated in the microwave will help control the pain from Occipital Neuralgia. Ice directly applied on the nerve, if tolerated, can also provide immediate relief.

Sometimes headaches are caused by pinched occipital nerves and by adjusting the position you sleep in can reduce the pain. Do not place your neck in a crooked position as this can cause your head and neck muscles to stiffened and contract. This position will apply pressure to the occipital nerve. Use a pillow that supports your neck but won’t allow your head to be higher than you neck.

Another solution is to consider manual medicine such as massage, physical therapy, osteopathic manual medicine and the more gentle forms of instrument guided adjustments such as atlas orthogonal treatment. Getting your head and neck back into proper alignment will remove the pressure on the occipital nerve in most cases.

For the more persistent cases when it comes to sleep with Occipital Neuralgia, your dedicated Headache Specialist at iNHS can decide if occipital nerve stimulator implants vs occipital nerve decompression or excision may be more appropriate.