Occipital neuralgia is a severe type of headache that causes symptoms such as piercing or throbbing pain in the upper neck, the back of the head and behind the ears. Some people who suffer from this disorder will also have pain in the forehead and behind the eyes and will experience light sensitivity as well. Occipital neuralgia can be brought on by trauma, compression of the spinal column, blood vessel inflammation, tumors and even localized infections. The pain brought on by this condition can make it difficult to sleep, but there are some things you can do to ease the discomfort and get a good night's rest.
Treating the pain symptoms caused by occipital neuralgia is the best way to ensure a good night sleep because it's usually the symptoms that keep you awake. Oral medications may be prescribed by your physician to alleviate the pain. Over-the-counter medications are also available that will decrease inflammation and spasms, which, in turn, reduces pain.
Applying heat is another way to relieve the symptoms of occipital neuralgia that can often keep you awake at night. Heat aids in reducing inflammation. You can use heating pads, heat wraps, warm gel packs and even moist washclothes heated in the microwave.
Adjusting the position you sleep in can also help reduce the pain associated with occipital neuralgia, as sometimes these headaches are caused by a pinched occipital nerve. Never sleep in a crooked position because this can cause your head and neck muscles to become stiff and to contract, which can apply pressure to the nerve. Try sleeping with a pillow that supports your neck but that does not allow your head to be higher than your neck.