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Occipital Bone

MVSAT Dec 2023

The occipital bone is the major bone of the occiput and is a cranial dermal bone (back and lower part of the skull). It has a trapezoidal form and is shaped like a shallow dish. The occipital bone rests on top of the cerebrum's occipital lobes. The foramen magnum is a big oval aperture in the occipital bone at the base of the skull that allows the spinal cord to pass through.

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It is classified as a flat bone, like the rest of the cranial bones. The occipital bone is divided into several segments due to its numerous attachments and characteristics. The basilar section, also known as the basioccipital, runs from front to back, the lateral sections, also known as the exoccipitals, go along the sides of the foramen magnum, and the back is known as the squamous section. The basilar portion is a thick, quadrilateral component located in front of the foramen magnum and aimed at the pharynx. The greatest section of the occipital bone is the squamous portion, which is the curving, enlarged plate behind the foramen magnum.

It has been suggested that "the occipital bone as a whole could be seen as a big vertebra enlarged to support the brain" due to its embryonic origination from the paraxial mesoderm (as opposed to the neural crest, from which many other craniofacial bones are produced).

Suboccipital Muscle 

The suboccipital muscles are a collection of muscles that are separated from the occiput by their placement. The muscles of the suboccipital region are found beneath the occipital bone. The two straight muscles (rectus) and the two oblique muscles are paired muscles on the underside of the occipital bone (obliquus).

Occipital Muscle 

The occipitalis muscle (also known as the occipital belly) is a skull-covering muscle. According to some sources, the occipital muscle is a separate muscle. It is currently classified as part of the occipitofrontalis muscle, along with the frontalis muscle, by Terminologia Anatomica. The occipitalis muscle is long and slender, with a quadrilateral shape. The epicranial aponeurosis is formed by tendinous fibres from the lateral two-thirds of the superior nuchal line of the occipital bone and the mastoid process of the temporal bone.

The face nerve innervates the occipital muscle, which has the function of pulling the scalp back. The occipital artery supplies blood to the muscles.

How to Relieve Occipital Muscle Pain?

Use your fingertips to apply mild pressure to the base of your skull. This massage can help you relax your stiff muscles and relieve stress. Alternatively, you can lie on your back with a rolled towel under your head and neck. The pressure of the towel can be utilised to deliver a light massage.

Occipital Neuralgia 

Occipital Neuralgia is a disorder that occurs when the occipital nerves, which run through the head, are injured or irritated. This creates a severe piercing, throbbing, or shock-like pain in the upper neck, back of the head, or behind the ears, known as occipital headache.

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Pinched nerves or muscle ttension in the neck can cause occipital neuralgia. A head or neck injury might also cause it. Primary or secondary occipital neuralgia exists. An underlying disease is linked to a subsequent ailment. While many of the causes of occipital neuralgia are possible, many cases can be ascribed to prolonged neck stress or unexplained causes.

  • Osteoarthritis of the upper cervical spine

  • Trauma to the greater and/or lesser occipital nerves

  • Compression of the greater and/or lesser occipital nerves or C2 and/or C3 nerve roots from degenerative cervical spine changes

  • Cervical disc disease

  • Tumours affecting the C2 and C3 nerve roots

  • Gout

  • Diabetes

  • Blood vessel inflammation

  • Infection


Continuous aching, burning, and throbbing, as well as intermittent shocking or shooting pain that starts at the base of the skull and travels to the scalp on one or both sides of the head, are all symptoms of occipital neuralgia. Patients frequently experience pain behind the affected side of the head's eye. Furthermore, even the tiniest movement, such as brushing one's hair, might cause agony. The discomfort is frequently compared to that of a migraine, and some patients may also experience symptoms that are similar to those of migraines and cluster occipital headaches.

Occipital Neuralgia Medication 

Occipital neuralgia relief of the pain, you can try the following things:

  • Apply heat to your neck.

  • Rest in a quiet room.

  • Massage tight and painful neck muscles.

  • Take over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, like naproxen or ibuprofen.

The prescribed medications for the occipital neuralgia include:

  • Prescription muscle relaxants.

  • Antiseizure drugs, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) and gabapentin (Neurontin).

  • Antidepressants.

  • Nerve blocks and steroid injections are both options. A nerve block, which your doctor may use to diagnose your disease, can also be used as a short-term treatment. To achieve control of your pain, you may need two to three doses spread out over several weeks. It's not unusual for the condition to resurface at some point, necessitating another round of injections.

Do You Know?

How to Sleep With Occipital Neuralgia Pain?

You should sleep on your back. Use a pillow to support your neck and maintain your head in line with your body (neutral position) If you sleep with your neck bent, the pressure on your nerves will be increased. If you sleep on your side, be sure your pillow does not elevate your head above your shoulders.

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FAQs on Occipital

1. What Causes Occipital Neuralgia?

Answer. Occipital neuralgia can develop naturally, as a result of a pinched nerve root in the neck (as a result of arthritis, for example), or as a result of a previous injury or surgery to the scalp or skull. Nerves can be entrapped by "tight" muscles in the back of the skull.

2. What Does Occipital Neuralgia Feel Like?

Answer. Continuous aching, burning, and throbbing, as well as intermittent shocking or shooting pain that starts at the base of the skull and travels to the scalp on one or both sides of the head, are all symptoms of occipital neuralgia. Patients frequently experience pain behind the affected side of the head's eye.

3. Does the Occipital Nerve Affect Vision?

Answer. The pain is usually one-sided, but if both occipital nerves are damaged, it might be on both sides. Additionally, because the occipital nerve follows the route of the occipital nerve, the discomfort may radiate forward toward the eye (s). As the discomfort extends near or behind the eye, people may feel impaired vision.

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