Occasionally, patients will describe a transient worsening of their headache, as the occipital nerinjection is made. This is viewed by the physicians as a reassuring sign that the medication is going to the right place, and the sensation usually disappears very quickly. This should then be followed by a pain free interval of several hours. After the local anesthetic has worn off, your headache may return for up to 1 ½ days. After this time, the steroid medication that was also injected for your occipital nerve block, should begin to work and provide you with further pain relief.

Prepare for the Procedure

The occipital nerve block is a safe medical procedure; but, as with any procedure, it has risks as well as benefits. To minimize the chance of complications, we ask that you follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Do not eat or drink anything for six hours prior to the procedure.
  • It is required that you be accompanied to and from the procedure center by a responsible adult driver. Most likely you will be offered a small dose of intravenous medication during the procedure which will act to not only decrease anxiety, but provide you some pain relief from the minor discomfort of the procedure itself. This intravenous medication that you receive will impair your driving ability; therefore, it is imperative that you be accompanied by a responsible adult driver.
  • Plan on spending roughly two to three hours at the procedure center. This allows for time for registration, preparation, performance of the procedure and observation after the procedure.

During the Procedure

First, an intravenous line will be placed, generally in your hand. We will then bring you to the operating room and place several monitors on you, such as a heart, blood pressure and a pulse. These will enable us to monitor your vital signs throughout the procedure. Following placement of the monitors we will begin to give you some intravenous medication in order to decrease anxiety, as well as provide you with some pain relief.

You will then be asked to sit on the side of the bed. After cleaning a small patch of your skin, a local anesthetic will be injected into the skin to decrease any pain associated with performance of the procedure. The medication is then administered through a small needle in the occipital region of your head and neck. The procedure itself is very brief, and usually lasts less then 10 minutes. Occasionally, patients describe a transient worsening of their headache after the medication is administered. This is viewed by the physicians as a reassuring sign that the medication is going into the right area, and this sensation should disappear very quickly.

After the Procedure

After the occipital nerve block is performed, we will continue to monitor you in the recovery room for 30 to 40 minutes. If there are no signs of any problems, you will be ready to leave.

Postprocedure instructions
These will be provided for you, in further detail, prior to your discharge from the procedure center. These instructions should include; no driving or operating heavy machinery for 24 hours after the procedure. This is recommended secondary to the fact that you have received intravenous medication during a procedure which may impair your ability to perform these tasks.

What are some possible side effects?
As stated above, after the local anesthetic that was injected as part of your occipital nerve block wears off, your headache may return for roughly 24 to 36 hours. After this time, you should receive some pain relief from the medication that was also injected during the time of your occipital nerve block. You may also experience some slight soreness at the sight of the injection. This is very normal, and should go away within a couple of days.