Occipital neuralgia is a form of headache that causes pain along the upper neck and back of the head. The pain is in the distribution of the nerves known as occipital nerves (sensory nerves that run from the upper part of the neck to the back of the head). Sometimes, this condition is referred to as occipital neuritis, suggesting there are some associated inflammatory changes that have affected the occipital nerves.
Although the symptoms of occipital neuralgia can vary from person to person, most patients will experience pain along the neck where it meets the skull, as well as pain along the back of the head. The pain might be one-sided or bilateral (located on both sides of the head). The pain might be sharp or stabbing, or feel like an electric shock along the nerve. Sometimes that pain is a dull aching or throbbing. The pain often can travel along the side of the head, sometimes as far forward as the forehead.