Head and Neck Pain
Unexplained migraines and severe pain in the head and neck can make it extremely difficult to complete even the most routine daily tasks. If you’re dealing with debilitating symptoms that arise consistently and frequently in the upper neck, back of the head, or behind the ears, it may be possible that you’re suffering from nerve damage or a nerve-related injury. Dr. Karan Chopra, our extensively trained peripheral nerve surgeon, understands that throbbing, shooting, and shock-like pain in the back of the head can bring your entire life to a standstill. He can work with you to determine effective solutions to reduce, or even eliminate, your chronic pain and help you enjoy a more comfortable quality of life.
What Causes Pain in the Back of the Head and Neck?
While headaches and/or the feeling of a stiff neck do not necessarily warrant medical attention alone, chronic head and neck pain that occurs consistently or has lasted over six months may be due to irritated, stretched, or damaged nerves. This pain can manifest in the following conditions:
Occipital neuralgia refers to damage, inflammation, or injury in the occipital nerves, which run through the length of the scalp. Whether this nerve damage is caused by trauma sustained during a procedure or an underlying disease—such as diabetes, gout, or osteoarthritis—occipital neuralgia can cause “migraine-like” pain that starts at the base of the head and spreads to the scalp as well as behind the eyes. Symptoms are typically described as shooting or sharp pain, although occipital neuralgia can also cause feelings of tingling or numbness.
Migraines are very common and affect millions of individuals yearly, although most people suffer less than two migraine headaches per year. While migraines can be triggered by one’s lifestyle (stress, diet, etc.) or other environmental (bright lights) factors, frequent migraines may be caused by nerve-related issues that result in aching or throbbing pain. Leaders in the field of peripheral nerve surgery believe migraines are linked to compression and/or irritation of certain nerves in the face and head; therefore, the surgical release of these nerves can be an effective treatment option to manage migraine pain.
What are Common Symptoms of Neuropathic Head and Neck Pain?
Injured or inflamed nerves can cause debilitating symptoms in the head and neck that may be characterized by:
- Aching, burning, or throbbing
- Shocking or shooting pain
- Intermittent or continuous pain
- Tingling or numbness
- Bouts of pain triggered by normal stimulation, such as brushing your hair, turning the neck, or laying your head down
While we may not be able to address all cases of head and neck pain with neuropathic treatments, peripheral nerve surgery may be recommended for patients who have experienced unsuccessful results from less invasive techniques, or who have already seen a specialist and ruled out other potential causes.
Treatments for Head and Neck Pain
Dr. Chopra will conduct a full evaluation of your physical health and medical history to help determine whether your pain may indeed be nerve-related. If this is a likely possibility and more conservative treatments have been ineffective in alleviating your head and neck pain, Dr. Chopra may suggest surgical procedures such as occipital nerve decompression or occipital release surgery.
Common non-surgical techniques to treat migraine pain include medications, electrical stimulation, and injections of medical BOTOX®—a muscle-relaxing agent that is FDA-approved to treat chronic migraines. In cases where no improvement is seen with minimally invasive treatments, Dr. Chopra can assess your candidacy for migraine surgery. Depending on the most beneficial type of procedure for your needs, migraine surgery is generally designed to release pressure on compressed nerves. This can decrease the intensity of your headaches, reduce how often they occur, and/or shorten the duration of a migraine headache.
At Gryskiewicz Twin Cities Cosmetic Surgery, Dr. Karan Chopra can assess the cause of your head and neck pain and develop an appropriate treatment plan to reduce your symptoms. Please contact our Minneapolis-area practice today to schedule a personal or virtual consultation with our peripheral nerve surgeon.