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Arnold's neuralgia


Arnold's neuralgia affects the occipital nerve, or the nerves surrounding it, located at the base of the skull at the genesis of the spine. It is a peripheral nerve that allows for the sensitivity of the scalp and a number of head movements. This peripheral neuropathy is secondary to a compression of the nerve, caused by trauma to the neck area, and more rarely by a rheumatic disease, syringomyelia. Treatment consists of drugs and rehabilitation. A simple daily exercise helps prevent Arnold's neuralgia.


Arnold's neuralgia is usually manifested by severe pain, continuous or intermittent, that radiates from the back of the neck to the forehead. It can be triggered by pressure of a finger on the area next to the nerve. The patient will complain of a burning sensation when the neck is moving, sometimes accompanied by a headache and hypersensitive scalp.


A sharp pain in the neck spreading to the orbital region, the feeling of "having a hangover" and the difficulty to move the neck are all potentially suggestive of Arnold's neuralgia. Clinical examination is completed by cervical imaging, a CT scan or MRI. The images may show nerve compression or be quite normal.


The treatment involves stopping excessive stress on the nerve, but total rest is not beneficial. Small movements should be encouraged. Conventional analgesics or anti-inflammatory drugs may have a beneficial effect on symptoms. Sometimes cortisone injections can eradicate pain, when certain oral medications prove to be insufficient. Physiotherapy is often necessary. In very rare cases, surgery are considered.


Some good habits prevent Arnold's neuralgia, namely:
  • Not sleeping in the prone position, with your arm under the pillow;
  • Not make phone calls while holding the device between your ear and shoulder;
  • Not always carrying a travel bag or purse on the same side, but making sure to alternate.