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Does this sound like occipital neuralgia?

Hi everyone

For several years I have experienced this tension/soreness that occurs only on one side at a time and extends from the base of my neck to about half-way up the top of my head. The tension/soreness will occur on one side, stay with me for a few weeks (or longer) and then dissappear for a month or two, only to return again but on the opposite side. During these episodes I am able to touch my chin to my chest and move my head around freely but when I turn my head left or right it hurts a little more. I have also noticed that these episodes occur more during or after periods of intense stress. Sometimes there is a very mild headache feeling involved along with what feels like pressure and brain fog.

I was in an accident some years ago and was injured but even worse, I have had Tourette's synndrome most of my life and have these head-jerking tics which used to be back and forth (as if nodding "yes") but in the last 6 months, they have morphed into a head-jerking tic that causes me to jerk my head from side-to-side (as if nodding "no"). Sometimes they can get pretty severe.

I also want to share that I have had a number of MRI's and CT scans with and w/out contrast over the years and was diagnosed with cervical arthritis with C4/C5 affected along with a bone spur (osteophyte). I don't know what else the report said but I think there is some nerve impingement and other things going on as well. I can also remember back years ago when I had several off-and-on episodes where it felt like my entire neck was a crumbling, concrete pillar that was falling apart with rusting rebar sticking out. I mean, it just felt like my whole neck was shattered and there was lots of cracking, crunching, grating, grinding and pain. Like the episodes I described at the beginning, these episodes came and went.

Often when I turn my head for long periods of time and then turn it back again or move it too quickly, I can hear/feel a "popping/cracking" and it can be pretty painful. Also, when I crane my neck for long periods, I start to feel kind of shaky/weird and have various sensations (like "vibrating" in my neck). Also, I have awaken a few times with the top of my scalp completely numb or it felt very prickly (like a thousand little bee stings). Perhaps the most scary time was when I woke up and for most of the day I was completely unable to use my right hand/arm (it was all but dead). Finally, I occassionally get the weird throat stuff (lumpy, tight feeling, random mildly sharp pains on one side, etc) but I also suffer from GAD/anxiety and Panic Disorder so perhaps that is at least partly the cause.

I never put two and two together until I recently typed "recurring occipital nerve pain" into a search engine and came upon the term "occipital neuralgia" which perfectly describes what I have been experiencing and what might be causing it all these years and I was wondering if the description of my circumstances along with any of the symptoms I have described here sound familar to any of you.

Thanks so much for any input.


  • No.This is probably a classic tension headache.
    Sounds just like what I get, and have had for a long, long time.
    You are right to indicate stress as a factor.
    Overuse of muscles, poor posture, repetitive strain injury and muscle tightness all play a part, and the stress compounds it all.
    Once the muscles get tight and knotted from all of the above, they are not able to relax and expand to allow normal movement.
    When you are stressed, you hold your muscles tight ready for action, and so they get worse.
    I have been (after a long struggle) able to overcome this problem almost 100%. I can still get it back from using the PC too much.
    It won't get better in the long term unless you modify your activities to either eliminate or severely reduce the harmful ones. In my case, anything to do with arms, neck and shoulders!
    Rest is very important as well, as this is when muscles recover.

    If your muscles are in a bad way, and it sounds like they are, you will need several remedial/ sports massages to tease the knots out and get the muscles back to normal. Don't expect miracles, but just an immediate and steady improvement.

    I did this for over a year, and got some normalcy back. But it still flared up often.

    My cure came from taking a high dose of magnesium chloride daily. That stopped it! Been on that for years now and I'll never stop.
    I also do a few neck exercises to keep it loose. One in particular is said to prevent that tight neck problem. Seeks to work for me.

    I was first alerted to this muscle problem by a pain specialist. He put me on the right path.
    So: rest the neck, shoulders and arms; get into a massage program, take magnesium.
    You may well have to stop or really cut back on some activities. Left untreated, it will get so bad that you will be unable to do anything. Be warned!
  • bluejay49bbluejay49 Posts: 11
    edited 01/27/2013 - 5:02 PM
    Thanks for the information. How about the other symptoms I mentioned?. Many of them don't seem to be related to my stress such as the occipital nerve pain, etc. Thanks again.
  • Peter BPPeter B Posts: 511
    edited 01/28/2013 - 12:32 AM
    I can only comment on things that I have experienced.
    Necks are very complex, and there may be several things at play at the same time.
    Personally, I'd be seeing a physiotherapist for a thorough examination of the neck, shoulders and back.
    I have monthly physio and massage, alternating, and that all keeps me going.
    The physios tell me that every patient has a sore neck, and the electronics that we all use so much are a big factor.
    Laptops in particular are bad news as the angles and positions are all wrong.
    I guess you may also have ON.
    That's what I thought I had, but it was just tight muscles.
    You might need to work through one thing at a time and see what happens.
    You would know immediately if massage is helping, and that would seem to discount ON if it did.
    Mind you, we would all benefit from regular massage, so keep that in mind too. We tend to ignore our muscles until we are in trouble.
    I look at my regular treatments as housekeeping/ maintenance.
    Why not try a massage every few days for a while and see how that goes? Even a half hour would help.
  • This is what I experience. It will start during a time of stress, I am unable to sleep for 2-3 days, on the 4th day all heck breaks loose. I get severe throbbing pain on one side of my head. My veins in my temple stick out, my head feels too heavy for my neck to hold up. Nothing relieves my pain. Lie down is what I want to do only even a pillow hurt the skin surrounding my head. My right eye feels swollen and I am not able to open it all the way. Light seers into my eye socket, if I press on my brow close to the bridge of my nose it feels like needles are being shot into my forehead. I have gotten nauseated the last two times I suffered, threw up once. When it finally subsides I feel brain damaged, I am spacey and dumb. Its hell and robbing more and more of my life. (I am a female and I believe there must be additional inflammation going on which triggers these headaches. It also happens if I sleep to long, in some one else's bed, if I turn or bend my head down for extended period of time or after riding in certain vehicles because of the headrest.

    I too hear crunching and grinding a lot of time. It creeps me out. I cannot imagine the tics you have with tourettes must help your neck. Which of course only get worse during stress too. I am sorry for your pains. K
    Keri Harpel
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