The Carotid artery (medical: Common carotid artery) is a vessel that occurs twice in the body, which oxygenated blood from the heart to the head, speak brain and face, promoted. These vessels, coming from the heart, run up the neck to the right and left and then divide into two main branches. The associated vein, the Jugular veinAnatomically speaking, the carotid artery is superficial, which transports the deoxygenated blood from the head area back to the heart.

In addition to the various vessels in the neck area, there are also some muscles and many nerve tracts in this area.

Neck pain can have a variety of different backgrounds, which can be associated with these different structures in this area.

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There are many different causes for carotid artery pain in the neck.

Probably the most common cause of pain in this area is muscular. Unfavorable lying down or movements, as well as overexertion, muscles in the neck area can cause pain, which is then easily misinterpreted by those affected as pain in the carotid artery. Since the muscles are very close to the carotid artery, it is difficult for the individual to differentiate between the causes. A visit to the doctor, who can determine the cause through certain tests, provides clarity.

However, there are also more dangerous causes that can cause pain in the throat and that start directly from a disease of the carotid artery. This includes the so-called carotid dissection. This disease, which can also affect young people, is due to a small hemorrhage in the vessel wall of the carotid artery. This is dangerous because blood clots can easily form as a result of this bleeding, which can then lead to a stroke. Around half of all people with a present carotid dissection complain of pain in the neck area, with even two thirds of all patients with the disease complaining of pain in the back of the head.

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Another disease of the carotid artery is the so-called stenosis of the carotid. Limescale deposits in the carotid arteries (arteriosclerosis) narrow the vessel, which hinders the blood flow. Such a stenosis can be felt by pain in the affected region, although this symptom is not present in the majority of cases.

Please also read our article on this Clogged carotid artery (carotid stenosis)

Figure pain in the carotid artery

Figure pain in the carotid artery

Carotid artery pain
(Cervical artery)

  1. Superficial temporal artery -
    Superficial temporal artery
  2. Facial artery -
    Facial artery
  3. Internal head artery -
    Internal carotid artery
  4. External head artery -
    External carotid artery
  5. Jugular vein -
    Jugular vein
  6. Cervical artery (carotid artery) -
    Common carotid artery
  7. Clavicle artery -
    Subclavian artery
  8. Healthy artery -
    normal blood flow
  9. arteriosclerosis
    (Vascular calcification) -
    Deposition of fats,
    Thrombus formation, blood flow
    highly limited
    A - headache
    B - ear pain
    C - jaw pain
    D - pain in the neck area

You can find an overview of all Dr-Gumpert images at: medical illustrations

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Jaw pain

Pain in the jaw can have the most varied of causes. Besides many Joint and Muscle discomfort can also do the Carotid artery cause pain there. If the carotid artery has a Bulging trains that occupy space, it can happen that it runs nearby Nerve roots be disconnected. The blood that can get into the artery wall through a tear creates a kind of internal bruise. Usually one comes Carotid dissection caused by an accident or a blow. The annoywho have favourited neck and jaw supply pass near the carotid artery and are at one Dissection in the arterial wall therefore at risk of being pinched off by the bruise. When such a nerve root is compressed, the primary pain is not usually felt, but the person affected feels it Numbness in the area supplied by the pinched nerve. Since such a reason for pain in the jaw is very rare, it is difficult to identify. A much more common reason are Tension in the jaw muscles by stress. However, dissection is the far more dangerous cause. At the points of the bulge arise preferentially Blood clotsthat in the worst case ins brain get there and one because of an insufficient supply of oxygen stroke can trigger. It is therefore very important to distinguish between dissection and simple muscle tension.

Ear pain

The carotid artery runs along the side of the neck and divides at the beginning of the Lower jaw into two main branches. One branch (the "External carotid artery“) Then supplies the tongue, the face, the back of the head and the ear with oxygenated blood on the outside of the head. Pain that occurs in the carotid artery can (as described in more detail above) from a narrowing, a bulging or a Vascular wall inflammation come. The person affected does not always have pain directly at the point where the constriction or bulge is. It is also possible that this pain continues and that the affected person has pain in the area of ​​the ear as a symptom. Many sufferers describe it as a feeling of "Radiation of pain“Which can pull from the shoulder over the jaw to the head. Here, too, it is very difficult for the doctor to determine the reason for this radiation of pain. The sufferer should therefore be vigilant for other symptoms that indicate a Narrowing in the carotid artery indicate. For example dizziness and a Tenderness be over the artery.

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a headache

In some cases the pain occurs in combination with a headache.

Headache is one of the most common symptoms in a wide variety of diseases and is therefore always difficult to assign directly to a disease as a symptom. However, it occurs in the majority of people who complain of carotid artery pain. To get here if there is any suspicion Narrowing or Bulging In the carotid artery should rule out other possible causes, especially the Tension of the neck muscles getting tested. This is in connection with Tension and stress the much more common reason for one Back of the headache. But also the Carotid stenosis or dissection can cause a referred pain to the back of the head because one of the two main branches of the carotid artery (External carotid artery) supplies this area.

Tension pain in the carotid artery

Pressure pain in the region of the carotid artery usually has one muscular Root cause. Vascular changes such as vascular calcification or narrowing (carotid stenosis) are usually not noticeable through pain.
Pressure pain in this region is mostly on muscular tension in the neck region or an improper strain on the muscles of the cervical spine or neck. The sternocleidomastoid muscle is located in close proximity to the carotid artery Sternocleido called. This can, for example, be inflamed or improperly stressed, so that pressure on the muscle and artery leads to pain.
Another possible cause of pain in the region of the carotid artery is swollen cervical lymph nodes. These are very close to the carotid artery, so that enlarged, round painful nodes can be felt here. This is e.g. in the event of a viral infection or as part of a Pfeiffer's glandular fever the case.

If you have any suspicions, please also use our Self-test to pain in the carotid artery by:

Pain right / left

May cause pain in the carotid artery different locations and radiate into the most diverse areas of the body. The carotid artery leads from the heart right and left on the neck oxygenated blood towards brain.
At the neck it still splits into two main branches on, of which the a branch superficial stays and the Facial region supplied and the other branch inside the skull pulls and the individual parts of the brain supplied.

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If there is one on this way Place to a constriction (Carotid stenosis) or one Bulging (Carotid dissection) the affected person often feels this Pain in the throat.
To check whether there is a constriction and whether it is localized right or left is there is a test. The person concerned should do this slight pressure first exercise on one side of the carotid artery. Once it's here too dizziness comes should stopped immediately become.
The dizziness shows that the carotid artery is the other side presumably stenosed is because this carotid artery is the other carotid artery closed by the pressure do not replace sufficiently can. So can the person concerned test beforehandwhether there could be a constriction and which page is affected.


When making a diagnosis, the first priority is a patient interview and a physical examination. Imaging procedures such as ultrasound or MRI can also be carried out to clarify the situation.

In the event of persistent and / or severe pain in the area of ​​the carotid artery, a doctor should be consulted who will make the correct diagnosis for the symptoms. Here is the Patient history an important part of the diagnosis. It is particularly important to mention whether other pains occur in other parts of the body and whether the pain is dependent on certain activities or movements. The division of the pain into a so-called Pain scale also helps the attending physician to assign the diseases in question to the person concerned. Other information, such as the use of certain medications, previous illnesses and whether the pain has occurred in this area before, should not be withheld.

After the patient's story comes the physical examination, in which particularly muscular causes can be excluded if necessary. However, if the pain clearly correlates with certain movements of the head, then in most cases a muscular problem can be assumed.

The imaging examination method of the Sonography (ultrasound), can confirm the diagnosis if the carotid stenosis is present. This method can be used to determine the thickness of the arterial wall and visualize the flow of blood in the area.

Modern methods of Magnetic resonance topography (MRI), or the Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), are especially helpful in diagnosing a present carotid dissection. In magnetic resonance angiography, the damaged wall can be visualized in high resolution using a contrast agent.

Evidence of a stroke

Strokes can go through Constrictions come about at the carotid artery. But not every narrowing of the carotid artery (Carotid stenosis) is also in need of treatment and dangerous. However, any narrowing of the carotid artery that causes symptoms is treated.
The most common symptoms are dizziness, syncope, and temporary visual disturbances. Carotid stenosis does not usually cause pain, so pain can be found in the region of the carotid artery Not as an indication of a stroke.

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Depending on the diagnosis, different therapy options for pain in the carotid artery are possible. If the problem is primarily muscular, you can use physical therapy and Massages the tension in the affected area is released, resulting in pain relief.

In the case of a stenosis of the carotids, in addition to the Avoiding the risk factors for heart disease (Smoking, sedentary lifestyle, blood lipids), the procedure of the so-called Carotid thrombus endarterectomy applied. The arterial wall at the affected area is peeled off by means of an operation, which eases the diameter for the blood and reduces the risk of a blood clot in the long term. Another procedure will dilate the affected area of ​​the carotid artery in the narrowed area and the vessel will, by using one Stents, kept open in the long term.

In the therapy of a carotid dissection, the Thinning of the blood in the foreground, to a formation of blood clots, which then may lead to a stroke lead to prevent. In individual cases, the vessel in the affected area can be repaired using a stent.

Pain in the carotid artery when inhaling

Pain in the area of ​​the carotid artery, especially when you breathe in, may indicate tension in the carotid artery Cervical spine (Cervical spine). A blockage of the cervical vertebrae can also be the cause of this type of discomfort. Carotid dissection can also cause similar symptoms, but the focus here is on other symptoms. The patients report pain in the lower jaw or the temporal region, show symptoms of paralysis and even visual disturbances.

Please also read our article on this Cervical spine syndrome

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