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Occipital nerve stimulation is a type of neuromodulation which uses electrical stimulation to alter the activity of certain nerves. Occipital nerve stimulation specifically targets nerves in the head and neck to relieve headaches and facial pain.


Occipital nerve stimulation can be used to treat chronic headaches (headaches that occur for more than 15 days a month, for longer than three months) that have not responded to previous treatments.

It can also be used for neuralgia or neuropathic pain, which is caused by damage or injury to the nerves. This type of pain may not respond to normal painkillers like paracetamol, or anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen.

Occipital nerve stimulation has also been shown to be effective in treating chronic migraines and cluster headaches (sudden, excruciating headaches that usually affect one side of the head and eyes, and occur in short bursts of time).


Occipital nerve stimulation involves implanting a small electrical device, similar to a pacemaker, under the skin on the chest. This is connected to tiny electrical wires (electrodes), which are placed under the skin around the back of the head.

Electrical impulses are sent through the electrodes to specific nerves. These impulses are not usually noticeable but can occasionally cause a tingling sensation. There are many theories as to exactly how occipital nerve stimulation improves pain, but it is thought to work by stopping overactive nerves carrying pain signals to the brain.

A trial period is carried out before permanently implanting the device. This involves connecting the electrodes to an external electrical device. The patient keeps a pain diary for approximately a week. The permanent device is only implanted if a significant improvement in pain is reported. Positioning of the temporary trial device involves minor day case surgery, while implanting a permanent device will usually require a one to two night hospital stay.

Patients are taught how to operate the device themselves. This includes how to adjust the amount of stimulation, charge the device and prevent it getting damaged. Our specialist teams will follow up with each patient and stay in close contact with them following the procedure.


Implanting the occipital nerve stimulation system is relatively safe with a low rate of complications. As with every surgery, there are some potential risks to consider. These include:

  • Infection in the area where the system is implanted
  • Movement or dislodging of the electrodes
  • Excessive bleeding from wounds
  • Failure of the stimulator device
  • Failure to improve pain, or in some very rare cases, an increase in pain
  • Allergic reaction to any drugs given during the procedure.

Our expert surgeons here at The London Clinic and their experienced teams make every effort to minimise these risks. They will be able to fully discuss the general risks of occipital nerve stimulation and any specific risks to individual patients beforehand.


Occipital nerve stimulation does not cure the source of the pain but it can help block the pain signals from reaching the brain.

Treatment response varies between individuals but several studies have shown that patients using occipital nerve stimulation treatment have a reduction in the number of days with headache, intensity of pain and pain-associated disability. The use of occipital nerve stimulation in the treatment of migraines has shown a 50% reduction in the intensity of the pain.

Why choose The London Clinic?

The London Clinic is dedicated to providing the best, personalised healthcare with over 600 world-renowned consultants available to offer informed health advice and treatment.

Spanning Harley Street and Devonshire Place, The London Clinic is situated in the heart of London’s internationally-known medical district. This central location, together with state-of-the art technologies and facilities that are not widely available in other hospitals, makes The London Clinic the hospital of choice for around 120,000 patients every year.

The London Clinic is an HTA licensed and JACIE accredited cancer centre with an ‘Excellent’ MacMillan Quality Environment Mark and with access to a Level 3 intensive care unit.

Offering affordable and competitive self-pay packages and expert support from Clinical Nurse Specialists and our specialised multidisciplinary team, over 98% of our patients said they would recommend The London Clinic to their friends and families.

Treatment cost

The London Clinic offers affordable, competitive self-pay packages for certain treatments.

Patients have the option to spread the cost of treatment with Chrysalis Finance.

Please call +44 (0)20 3613 7502 to speak to our helpful team to find out more and to book an appointment.

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