Bulging Disc – Can it Cause Headaches

Relationship Between Bulging Disc and Headaches

When a bulging cervical disc causes pain, the pain does not always start in the neck. Many people experience discomfort in the form of numbness and tingling sensations that travel down through the shoulders, arms, and hands. Additionally, a bulging disc in the C1-C3 space located very close to the trigeminal nerve can cause pain that radiates upward towards the occipital and facial regions, resulting in migraines like cervicogenic headaches. Alternatively, bulging disc pain can be a stressor that triggers migraine headaches. 

What Are Symptoms of Cervicogenic Headaches

Headaches caused by a bulging disc in the neck typically start as steady (non-throbbing) pain at the back of the head. The pain may spread to the top of the skull, forehead, or temple. Some people also experience pain or discomfort behind one eye. Neck pain may or may not occur as well. When it does, the neck pain and headaches may worsen and improve together. 

Other common symptoms of cervicogenic headaches include:

  • Nausea
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to bright light
  • Sensitivity to loud noise
  • A stiff neck

How Are Cervivogenic Headaches Treated

Because headaches can occur for many reasons other than a bulging disc in the neck, it’s important to pinpoint the underlying cause before starting any treatment. Once a headache is confirmed to be cervicogenic (traced to a spinal issue) a physician may recommend any of several options to reduce pain such as:

  • Medications – such as anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxers, and pain relievers
  • Physical Therapy – such as exercises that stretch and strengthen the muscles that support the neck 
  • Chiropractic Manipulation – such as joint movement and therapeutic massage
  • Relaxation Techniques – such as deep breathing, yoga, and acupuncture

Alternatively, a physician may suggest a surgical procedure. This is to relieve pressure on spinal nerves that are being compressed by a bulging disc in the neck. Surgery may be appropriate if cervicogenic headache pain is severe. 

To learn more about surgical treatment options for headaches caused by a bulging disc in the neck, contact BEST Health System, the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery. Our team can help determine if you are a candidate for one of our minimally invasive outpatient surgery, which is a safer and more effective alternative to traditional open spine surgery.