Occipital Nerve Stimulator

Understanding Occipital Nerve Stimulator

If you have debilitating headaches and migraines, an occipital nerve stimulator may help relieve your symptoms. This therapeutic procedure implants a device that uses electrical signals to diminish occipital nerve function. It has electrodes that connect isolated leads to a generator and delivers electrical signals to the occipital nerve. This produces a tingling sensation and blocks pain signals from the nerve to the brain.
Installing an occipital nerve stimulator requires surgery. However, the surgery is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. Originally developed in the 1990s, this treatment manages chronic, severe pain syndromes that are non-responsive to alternative treatments. The stimulator can be removed and Dr. Lewis tailors the treatment to your needs.

What Do the Occipital Nerves Do?

The occipital nerves provide feeling from the back of your head to your ears. They emerge from the top of the spine and travel under the neck muscle and up the back of the scalp, ending at the top of your head. There are three sets of occipital nerves on each side of your head.
The types of occipital nerves include the following:

  • Two greater occipital nerves cover most of the scalp to the top of the head
  • Two lesser occipital nerves behind each ear from the back of the neck
  • Two third occipital nerves are located slightly above the neck

When Is an Occipital Nerve Stimulator Used?

This surgery provides relief from chronic pain, typically unbearable daily headaches that do not improve with the use of medication. If you have headaches at least 15 days each month, Dr. Lewis may recommend occipital nerve stimulation surgery.

Stimulators and Headaches

There are three types of nerve stimulators:

  • Occipital nerve stimulators (ONS)
  • Sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG)
  • Deep brain stimulators (DBS)

More research is needed to determine the full impact of each device. Feel free to ask Dr. Lewis about the device you will receive.

Occipital Nerve Stimulators – A Quick Overview

This device includes wires that are surgically placed at the back of the neck and skull. Another wire goes to a battery installed in the chest, similar to a pacemaker. The occipital nerve stimulator does not eliminate headaches. Instead, it typically decreases the number and severity of headaches.

How Effective are Occipital Nerve Stimulators?

Prior to performing occipital nerve stimulation surgery, Dr. Lewis will prescribe medication and may use other methods to reduce your headaches. However, if you don’t respond well to less invasive procedures, an occipital nerve stimulator may be the right treatment for you.
Occipital nerve stimulation can effectively treat chronic headache disorders. However, researchers are still evaluating the efficacy and implications of this procedure. Therefore, patients usually go through a number of other treatments prior to getting the go-ahead for this surgery.

How Long is the Recovery?

Typically, this is an outpatient procedure. Dr. Lewis will check your wounds four days following the surgery. At that time, we can tell you when the stitches will come out. Take it easy for six weeks following the procedure. When you feel up to it, you can resume gentle exercise for an hour a day.

Contact the Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic to learn more about occipital nerve stimulator treatments. Call us at (601) 366-1011 today to make an appointment. We’ll find a solution that works for you.