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Trigger Point Therapy for Occipital Neuralgia

By Camilla Moore August 14, 2022 Health and Fitness

If you are one of the many people who suffer from occipital neuralgia, you know how painful and debilitating it can be. This condition is characterized by pain in the back of your head, usually around the base of your skull.

Several treatments are available for occipital neuralgia, including medication, surgery, and trigger point therapy in the neck muscles. In this blog post, we will discuss trigger point therapy and how it can help relieve the symptoms of occipital neuralgia.

What Is Occipital Neuralgia?

Occipital neuralgia is a condition that causes nerve pain in the back of your head. The pain is usually around the base of your skull, but it can also be felt in your neck, behind your ears, or even in your eyes. Occipital neuralgia can be caused by several things, including trauma, inflammation, or even muscle tension.

Pain from occipital neuralgia typically comes from irritation of the nerves that exit the base of the skull and travel up the back of the head. These nerves go between the suboccipital muscle group, and when these muscles become restricted and tight, they can cause increased compression of the nerves.

Symptoms of Occipital Neuralgia

The most common symptom of occipital neuralgia is a dull, aching pain in the back of your head and the neck muscles. The pain can be constant, or it can come and go. It can also be worse when you move your head or when you press on the affected area. Other symptoms of occipital neuralgia include:

  • Headaches
  • Neck pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Ear pain
  • Eye pain

Common Medical Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

There are several medical treatments available for occipital neuralgia. These include:


Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen, can help relieve the pain of occipital neuralgia. However, if over-the-counter medications don’t work, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications.

Steroid Injections

Steroid injections are a standard treatment for occipital neuralgia. They can help to reduce inflammation and pain by directly targeting the affected nerves. Injections are typically given every four to six weeks and may be combined with other treatments, such as physical therapy or oral pain medication.

While they are generally safe and effective, steroid injections can cause side effects, such as temporary numbness, bruising, or soreness at the injection site. For this reason, they should be used sparingly and only under the supervision of a healthcare provider.


Surgical treatment is not usually the first line of treatment for occipital neuralgia. However, it may be recommended if other treatments have been unsuccessful in relieving the pain.

The most common type of surgery for occipital neuralgia is called decompression surgery. Decompression surgery involves alleviating pressure on the occipital nerves by removing any bone spurs or other growths that may be causing pressure. Sometimes, the surgeon must also release the muscles compressing the nerves.

Surgery is usually considered a last resort for treating occipital neuralgia, but it can effectively relieve the chronic pain associated with this condition.

Home Treatments for Occipital Neuralgia

Several home treatments can help relieve the pain from occipital neuralgia. These include:


Applying heat to the affected area can help reduce pain and stiffness.


Massaging the muscles in the back of your head can help relax them and relieve pain.


Stretching the muscles in the back of your head can also help relieve the pain.


Using a pillow that supports the neck can help reduce the pain. There are several great options for pillows to help with occipital neuralgia.

Trigger Point Therapy

Trigger point therapy is a type of massage that involves applying pressure to specific points in the muscles to relieve pain. This type of therapy can be very effective in reducing the pain of occipital neuralgia.

A trigger point is a tight, knotted area in the muscle that can cause pain. In the case of occipital neuralgia, the tightness in these muscles can irritate the occipital nerves and cause pain.

Applying pressure to a trigger point can help release the restrictions in the muscle and relieve the pain.

There are several benefits of trigger point therapy, including:

  • Relief from pain: Trigger point therapy can be very effective for relieving the pain of occipital neuralgia.
  • Relaxation of muscles: This therapy can also help relax the muscles in the back of your head, leading to less pain.
  • Increased range of motion: Trigger point therapy can also help improve your range of motion.
  • Fewer headaches: This therapy can also help reduce the number of headaches you experience.

Trigger point therapy may be a promising treatment option if you are suffering from occipital neuralgia.

The muscles involved in occipital neuralgia are the suboccipital muscles located just under the curve of the skull. There are four main treatment options for trigger point therapy.

Self Trigger Point Therapy for Sub-Occipital Release

Self-massage of the sub-occipital muscles can help to relieve occipital neuralgia. By massaging these muscles, you can help to reduce tension and pain in the occipital region. In addition, self-massage can help improve the area’s circulation, which can also help reduce pain and inflammation.

Neck Massager for Neck Pain

A neck massager can help to relieve occipital neuralgia pain by providing gentle compression and massage to the upper neck. Neck massagers are available in various styles, including electric and manual models.

Some neck massagers also include heat settings to further relax the tight neck muscles in the cervical spine. When used as directed, neck massagers are safe and effective for relieving occipital neuralgia pain.

Massage Therapy

Professional massage therapists are trained to identify and treat occipital neuralgia pain. They can use various techniques, including trigger point therapy and myofascial release, to release the tension in the tight muscles and relieve the pain.

A massage therapist can work on trigger points and muscle tightness resulting from poor posture. Treatment in this area can also help with tension headaches and chronic headaches.

Trigger Point Injections for Chronic Pain

Trigger point injections are one standard treatment option for occipital neuralgia. They involve injecting a local anesthetic into the muscle tissue in the suboccipital muscles. Trigger point injections can significantly improve by numbing the area and interrupting the pain signal from the occipital nerve to the brain.

In addition, they can help to reduce inflammation, relax the muscle, and provide significant relief. Trigger point injections are usually done as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that includes physical therapy, medications, and lifestyle changes.

How about you? Have you had any experience with occipital neuralgia? If so, what treatments worked for you?

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The Author

Dr. Camilla Moore is a Lifestyle Medicine Chiropractor and a freelance medical and health writer. She is a self-published author and you can read her other articles at her blog, The Wellness Cabinet where she writes about exercise, fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness.

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