Occipital nerve stimulators sometimes referred to as peripheral nerve stimulation of the occipital nerves is a renowned chronic headache treatment. The treatment is administered for patients who fail to respond to other treatments and involves mild electrical pulses which are used to stimulate the greater and lesser occipital nerves.
This alters the way the brain perceives those pain signals and lessens pain dramatically. These nerves make up the peripheral nervous system and you can find them on the head right above your neck. Although this treatment is not new and has been used for a couple of decades, it’s still a treatment in its developmental stage.
Occipital blocks are very effective for short term management of headaches and migraines, so a radiofrequency treatment or stimulator implant may provide much longer term relief.
Occipital Nerve Stimulation for Chronic Headaches: How It Works
This is an outpatient treatment. The electric impulses are produced by a neurostimulator which is a small device resembling a pacemaker. The neurostimulator produces electrical impulses which are directed to the occipital nerves by a pair of small metal electrodes implanted under the skin.
The electrical pulses are adjustable and you can change their intensity with a remote control. Before having the neurostimulator implanted, the patient will first have to undergo various assessments to ensure that they get the desired results. Psychological evaluation is conducted to ascertain the patient’s mental health and overall well being.
This procedure has very minor risks and these are detailed to the patient before implantation. Usually, a trial treatment is conducted and what the Las Vegas pain management doctor is looking out for with the treatment is pain relief that exceeds 50 percent.
The trial is left in place for 5 to 7 days. If adequate pain relief is achieved, the final implant is scheduled to be implanted at a later date. Permanent placement is conducted with fluoroscopic guidance and this involves placing one or two implants on opposite sides of the head. These leads are then connected to the neurostimulator which can be implanted on various parts of the body and they range from the clavicle which is under the collarbone, the gluteal (buttock) areas, chest to the lower abdomen.
Clinical Studies of Occipital Nerve Stimulators for Chronic Headaches
Like we mentioned, this treatment is still in its developmental stage and various studies still need to be conducted. There have been various clinical studies that have proven to be highly successful. That said; the results of these clinical studies vary and some studies have received results indicating a 30 percent reduction in the pain levels with others realizing a 27 percent reduction in pain.
For those patients who have persistent migraines and other types of headaches, there are multiple treatment options. If occipital blocks provide relief for a few weeks to months, a Las Vegas pain doctor may perform an occipital radiofrequency ablation. And for those patients who simply cannot obtain adequate relief with these procedures, an occipital stimulator implant may be a great last resort.
At Innovative Pain Care, over 50 insurance plans are accepted and the pain management doctors in Las Vegas are Board Certified. Call (702) 323-0553 for more information and scheduling with pain management Las Vegas trusts!