What Is Occipital Nerve Stimulation?

What Is It?  

If you have had constant headaches throughout your life, you know that most treatments offer little to no help.  Occipital Nerve Stimulation is a surgical procedure that targets one or more of the occipital nerves (greater, lesser, and third occipital nerves) which transmit most of the pain. In certain headache syndromes, other nerves may be targeted (for example the supraorbital and supratrochlear nerves). During the procedure, a small amount of electrical current is used to suppress these nerves, which helps to mask the pain that you are feeling. This procedure is ordinarily non-destructive and reversible.

Do You Qualify For Occipital Nerve Stimulation? 

A number of painful conditions can be treated using occipital nerve stimulation. Patients with the following conditions who have failed all standard medical therapies may benefit:

·              Occipital neuralgia

·              Whiplash-related headaches

·              Other neck-related or ‘cervicogenic’ headaches

·              Nerve injuries (from trauma or previous surgery)

·              Occasionally cluster headaches


How Is It Performed? 

This surgey is typically performed in 2 separate stages, several weeks apart.

Local anaesthetic is used to lightly sedate the patient.  An electrode (wire) will be placed over the relevant nerve or nerves at the back of the head. These will be brought out through the skin, and secured in place. The patient will then be transferred back to the ward after a brief period of time in the recovery room.

These electrodes will be attached to a small external stimulator, and the effects of stimulation on pain will be tested for at least several days. 

How Successful Is it? 

Occipitall nerve stimulation  has a 70% success rate in reducing headaches and pain. On average, pain scores are reduced by around 50%. For example if a patient had a pain score of 10/10 we would be able to reduce it to 5/10.

Some patients who suffer from severe headaches, particularly those with occipital neuralgia and cervicogenic headaches, respond extremely well to this procedure.


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