By Christy Jackson, M.D. Director, Dalessio Headache Center at Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, California Headaches that originate in the area where the base of the skull and the neck join - called the occipital region - may have numerous causes. Structures in both the junction of the skull and the cervical vertebrae have regions that generate pain, including the lining of the cervical spine, the joints, ligaments, cervical nerve roots and vertebral arteries that pass through the cervical vertebrae. One form of occipital headache is known as cervicogenic headache. This disorder originates from the cervical (neck) spine. The following cases illustrate how it is diagnosed and treated.

The occipital nerve transversing the back of the head can cause unilateral head pain with radiation to the temporal area of the head. These symptoms can be precipitated by injury, overlaying muscle tension or anatomic variations. The neuralgia can be treated with medication, local blocks and...