Treating Occipital Neuralgia with Physical Therapy

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Treating Occipital Neuralgia

Occipital neuralgia is defined as a medical disorder marked by chronic pains in the back of the patient’s head, behind his ears and on his upper back. The areas experiencing pain related to occipital neuralgia are linked with our occipital nerves. An individual develops occipital neuralgia as a result of damages occurring in the occipital nerves. Damage to these nerves might take place due to physical stress, medical complications like bone tumors or trauma. The most common sign indicating occurrence of occipital neuralgia is chronic headache, which is often misdiagnosed to be migraines or tension headaches.

Conventional treatment of occipital neuralgia involves use of steroid injection in combination with Lidocaine; the injection gets administered at the root of the affected nerve in order to number the region offering temporary pain relief. Doctors also prescribe NSAIDs for reducing nerve inflammation. However, the most effective treatment of occipital neuralgia is physical therapy. A physical therapy for occipital neuralgia can include manual massages, heat therapy as well as electrical stimulation using TNS units.

During the manual therapy, the therapist uses only his hands for putting pressure on the ailing muscles and influencing the joints for reducing the pain. TENS or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation on the other hand is a device used for non-invasive pain management. This device works by sending low intensity electrical impulses from the skin towards the nerved via the electrodes. These electrical impulses block the pain signals so that they cannot reach the patient’s brain and thus rid him from pains caused by occipital neuralgia.

Heat therapy for occipital neuralgia is used to stimulate sensory receptors of the patient that are responsible for responding to cold and heat. This helps in blocking the transmission of the pain signals towards the brain. Another benefit offered by heat therapy is improved blood flow; this in turn reduces the muscle stiffness promoting complete muscle relaxation.

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