Most of the feeling in the back and top of the head is transmitted to the brain by the several sets of occipital nerves. These nerves travel up the center and both sides of the head. Emerging from between bones of the spine in the upper neck, the occipital nerves make their way through muscles, facial layers and other structures at the back of the head and into the scalp. They sometimes reach nearly as far forward as the forehead, but do not cover the face or other areas in the front of the head, as these areas are covered by other nerves.
Compression and /or irritation of one these nerves anywhere along their course can cause problems. The resulting issue is that you may feel shooting, zapping, electric, or tingling in the scalp. This feeling, sometimes painful, feels very similar to that of injuring the ulnar nerve at the elbow (“hitting the funny bone”). Sometimes the pain can also seem to shoot forward (“radiate”) toward one eye. In some patients, the scalp becomes extremely sensitive to even the lightest touch, making washing the hair or lying on a pillow nearly impossible. In still other patients, there may be numbness in the affected area. The region where the nerves enter the scalp may be extremely tender.
We have developed an extensive protocol to help us determine which patients might have these issues and would be the best candidates for possible nerve decompression surgery for headache. By best candidate, we mean those patients who are most likely to get the most benefit following the surgery. If this sounds like you and you are interested in seeing if you might be a surgical candidate, please contact our offices by phone or email and we will get the evaluation process started for you.