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Greater Occipital Nerve BlocksIf you suffer from chronic migraines like 14.7%  of other Americans you know the disheartening feeling of being unable to find effective relief from the throngs of migraine headaches. These patients are in desperate need of new treatments to alleviate their suffering. Luckily, a new study shows that an OLD technique could have been under our noses for 30 years.


What treatments are currently available for migraines?


There are a number of treatments that should be tried before the greater nerve block. Below is a list of these.


Acute treatments:


  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Aspirin can be helpful during the attack.
  • Triptans can be used in patients with an attack that do not get relief from NSAIDs


Chronic treatment:


  • Some patients may be offered a beta blocker (this is a medication which usually is given to slow your heart down). These have been found to help prevent migraines
  • Anticonvulsants like topiramate that is commonly used for seizures can help to prevent migraines in patients where a beta blocker hasn’t worked.


What is Greater Occipital Nerve Block?


A greater occipital nerve block is an injection that’s commonly been used for people with neck pain or occipital neuralgia. The procedures are usually done under ultrasound guidance (that’s the scan you often see a pregnant woman getting to make sure babies ok). The doctor will insert a needle using the ultrasound scanner for guidance and inject a mixture of local anesthetic and steroids around the greater occipital nerve (which supplies sensation and pain for back and sides of your head).


How could this be used in a migraine?


A new study looked at using this for patients who suffer migraine headaches. The technique has been trialed frequently and touted by some doctors as a great success but there has been a lack of real evidence to suggest it has any good long-term effects. As such a group of researchers at the Mayo Clinic enrolled 562 patients who underwent a greater occipital block and attended a follow-up appointment. The patients reported either no reduction,  minimal, moderate or significant reduction in pain on an 11 point scale. 82% of the patients rated their pain relief as significant. Other fantastic news from the study is that there was no single group of patients who seemed to respond best to the block – meaning this treatment worked equally well for all patients involved. The authors conclude by saying


“Greater occipital block seems to be an effective option for acute management of a migraine headache, with promising reductions in pain scores.”


This could be a major step forward for migraine treatment. If you or somebody you know is not getting the relief they need from migraines then head to a specialist pain clinic