Occipital neuralgia headaches produce sharp pain at the base of the skull, which radiates up the back, the sides and up to the front of the head. Some sufferers also experience neck pain, discomfort behind the ears and behind the eyes. Sensitivity to light is another symptom. The condition develops when the nerves at the occipital or back of the head become irritated or pinched from neck muscle tension, osteoarthritis, traumatic injury, lesion or tumor development. Physical therapy is a recommended means of dealing with the discomfort.
Physical Therapy Session
Following an evaluation of the problem, therapists often use massage to encourage blood flow, relax muscles and locate affected nerves. Improved blood and oxygen circulation also aid in healing nerve damage. Therapists typically take note of a patient's posture, which can add additional pressure and contribute to the discomfort. Before the end of the session, patients are usually provided with specific exercises that help ease symptoms.
Sit tall in a sturdy chair having a straight back. Look forward and keep your head and neck aligned with the rest of your spine. Put the index and middle finger of your hand under your chin. Move your chin down and your head back as if trying to make your chin double. You should feel a stretch on the back and the sides of the neck along with the base of the skull. Hold this position for a count of five and release.
Sitting erect on a chair, keep your head level and slowly rotate it to the right as far as possible until you experience discomfort, and hold the position for a count of five. Slowly rotate your head back to the front. Repeat the exercise to the left side. Perform this technique a few times throughout the day as needed.
Extension and Flexion
These stretches are designed to relieve neck and skull muscle tension. Sit in a chair and relax your hands on your knees. Start by looking forward with your head, neck and spine aligned. Slowly tilt your head backwards until you can gaze at the ceiling. Hold for a count of five. Return to the starting position. Now, tilt your head forward and push your chin into your chest and hold. Return to an upright sitting position. Repeat this exercise five to 10 times.
Besides exercise, rest and relaxation are equally important for alleviating occipital pain. This technique is a calming yoga pose for that purpose. For 30 minutes, lie down while using a pillow, folded blanket or other form of support under your head to achieve proper alignment. Close your eyes, relax your arms at your sides with palms facing upward. Your legs should be in a comfortable neutral position.