Occipital Neuralgia is characterized by paroxysms of pain occurring within the distribution of the greater, lesser, and/or third occipital nerves. The pain is caused by irritation or injury to the nerves including, but not limited to, compression as they travel up the neck and pass through the semispinalis and trapezius muscles. Commonly, the nerves are inflamed and sensitive because they are trapped within the muscles through which they pass. Muscle spasm and pain are often associated with nerve entrapment, which causes localized pain, spasm and muscle cramping.

Occipital neuralgia is usually due to trauma to the occipital nerve, often caused by an auto-accident where the head impacts the headrest. Known causes include whiplash type hyperextension injuries, concussive closed head injuries, direct occipital nerve trauma, neuroma formation, or upper cervical root compression (spondylosis or ligamentous hypertrophy). Most patients have no demonstrable lesion.


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