What Does It Mean When You Have Left-Sided Neck Pain?

Neck pain on just one side of the neck, especially with an accompanying headache, may result from carotid artery dissection, reports the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery. Arterial dissection is a tear in the wall of an artery.

A common cause of carotid artery dissection is turning the head too far in one direction and overextending the neck, causing the carotid artery to rub against the vertebrae in the neck, says the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery. A dissected artery causes neck pain immediately over the arterial tear and a headache, typically around the eyes, on the same side of the body as the tear. There may also be a drooping of the eyelid on the affected side of the body, a severely contracted pupil, vision loss, general weakness or numbness or difficulty speaking. Some of these symptoms occasionally become permanent.

The patient might also experience an audible rushing or murmuring sound. The tear sometimes causes the opening of the vessel to narrow or a segment of tissue to dangle into the opening. These occurrences are called stenosis and occlusion, respectively.

Imaging of a blood vessel, or angiography, informs a doctor of the presence of stenosis or occlusion, says the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery. Any blood clots are visible via MRI. Doctors typically treat a dissected artery with blood thinners for at least eight weeks.