Nerve block for the treatment of headaches and cranial neuralgias - a practical approach

Headache. 2015 Feb;55 Suppl 1:59-71. doi: 10.1111/head.12516. Epub 2015 Feb 3.


Background: Several studies have presented evidence that blocking peripheral nerves is effective for the treatment of some headaches and cranial neuralgias, resulting in reduction of the frequency, intensity, and duration of pain.

Objectives: In this article we describe the role of nerve block in the treatment of headaches and cranial neuralgias, and the experience of a tertiary headache center regarding this issue. We also report the anatomical landmarks, techniques, materials used, contraindications, and side effects of peripheral nerve block, as well as the mechanisms of action of lidocaine and dexamethasone.

Conclusions: The nerve block can be used in primary (migraine, cluster headache, and nummular headache) and secondary headaches (cervicogenic headache and headache attributed to craniotomy), as well in cranial neuralgias (trigeminal neuropathies, glossopharyngeal and occipital neuralgias). In some of them this procedure is necessary for both diagnosis and treatment, while in others it is an adjuvant treatment. The block of the greater occipital nerve with an anesthetic and corticosteroid compound has proved to be effective in the treatment of cluster headache. Regarding the treatment of other headaches and cranial neuralgias, controlled studies are still necessary to clarify the real role of peripheral nerve block.

Keywords: facial pain; headache; lidocaine; nerve block; neuralgia; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cranial Nerve Diseases / complications
  • Cranial Nerve Diseases / therapy*
  • Headache / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Neuralgia / complications
  • Neuralgia / therapy*