Sharp pain in head is one of the most common of all medical complaints. They may indicate a range of benign or life-threatening health conditions. It could be due to something simple and more common such as stress, inflammation and migraines or it could be due to something serious such as hypertension and brain tumor. Be sure to consult your doctor immediately if severe headaches are accompanied by weakness, fever, vomiting or vision changes.

What Causes Sharp Pain in Head?

Many conditions can cause pain specifically on the left side of the head or behind the head. Other accompanying symptoms usually help identify the cause of sharp pain in head, but further professional diagnosis is usually required for all types of headaches.

Giant Cell Arteritis

It involves an inflammation of the arterial lining, which causes a sharp pain on left side of head. Giant Cell Arteritis affects the arteries in your head and temples, which is why it is also known as temporal arteritis. Common signs and symptoms stating that sharp pain in your head is due to Giant Cell Arteritis includes tenderness in the affected area, double vision with reduced visual acuity, jaw pain, scalp tenderness, weight loss and fever. If not treated early, the condition could lead to serious complications such as blindness and stroke.

Take corticosteroid drugs daily can reduce inflammation, but may cause mood swing, weight gain and week bones. Besides, Diet and exercise regularly helps.


Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal Neuralgia is a nerve disorder, usually caused by multiple sclerosis or inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which can be caused by a swollen blood vessel or tumor. Quite like Giant Cell Arteritis, it is characterized by severe pain in left side of head, with stabbing pain in and around your face. The condition usually affects older adults, but people of all ages may become a victim of Trigeminal Neuralgia.


Cluster Headaches

They are the least common and most painful of all headaches. They are referred to as "suicide headaches" mainly due to the excruciating pain a person experiences during an attack. The cluster headaches can be episodic with severe pain separated by long pain-free periods; or they can be chronic with pain-free periods that last less than a month.

Breathing 100% oxygen from a mask is a traditional methods. Tylenol, ibuprofen, neproxen and other OTC medication help relieve cluster headache. Steroid like prednisone can soothe inflammation and pain.



Migraines are quite common; in fact, an estimated 20% of adults are the victims of migraines. It is associated with moderate to severe agonizing pain, accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vision loss, vomiting, and sensitivity to odors or light. The pain can last from a few minutes to a few hours and gets worse with physical activities.



The headache you're experiencing may well be an outcome of meningitis which can be caused by bacterial or viral infections. The meninges are the tissues around the spinal cord and the brain, and the infection usually leads to the inflammation of these tissues, which can result in permanent disabilities like kidney damage, limb amputations, brain damage and even life-threatening conditions. Besides a severe headache, stiff neck is a common symptom of meningitis, which is often accompanied by vomiting, nausea, unconsciousness, seizures, loss of appetite, sensitivity to light and so on.


Sinus Infection

Severe pain in the head, with discomfort behind the ears or eyes, is usually a sign of sinusitis. The headaches are usually quite severe in sphenoid sinusitis, but frontal sinusitis will cause severe headache and pain behind ears as well. The pain gets worse when a person bends over.



Encephalitis can cause headaches. It is irritation and inflammation of the brain cells, caused usually by infections. Encephalitis manifests itself through specific symptoms including headache, moderate fever, poor appetitive, confusion, drowsiness, disorientation, unsteady gait, seizures and so on.


Brain Tumor

Sharp pain in head may also be credited to a primary brain tumor, a mass of abnormal cells that grow in the brain. Tumors can start from the membranes around the brain, brain cells, glands, or nerves. These tumors can destroy brain cells and patient experiences pressure within the skull. Headaches in this case may occur during sleep, get worse in the morning and occur with confusion, vomiting, weakness, double vision or numbness.


Tension Headache

More than 78% of adults experience a tension-type headache at least once during their lifetimes. Caused mainly by the tightness in the muscles over the scalp and at the back of the neck, patient usually experiences a band of painful pressure all around the head that lasts for a few days. Even though these headaches can be uncomfortable, they don't affect your sleep pattern. But you may become sensitive to noise and bright light. Their intensity is usually at its lowest in the morning and increases as the day progresses.


Primary Stabbing Headache

Also known as "ice-pick headache", it causes severe pain in the head that may last between 5 and 30 seconds. It resembles the pain you experience if you stick an ice pick into your head. It may occur right behind the ear at any time of the day or the night. People who have migraines are more likely to have primary stabbing headache.


Other Causes of Sharp Pain in Head

In addition to the previously mentioned causes, withdrawal effects of drugs, hangover, vascular or spinal headache, coital cephalagia and hormonal imbalance may also lead to sharp pain in head. If the pain is mainly in the back of your head, this could be due to mental tension, stress, depression or wrong body posture.

How to Deal With Sharp Pain in Head

  • You should avoid dehydration, which can trigger headaches.

  • You may find relief by relaxing and resting in a quiet, dark place for 30 minutes. While resting, select the room temperature carefully and ensure your bed or couch is comfortable.

  • You can rely on OTC medication, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. Remember, a painkiller will usually take at least 30 minutes to kick in, so take one as soon as you experience slight discomfort.

  • You may want to apply something cool and soft over your forehead which constricts blood vessels and eases the pain. A cold compress on your neck may also prove beneficial in severe pain.

  • Remember, a headache can sometimes be a symptom of something serious, like a strong, encephalitis or meningitis. You should go to a hospital emergency room if sharp pains in head are accompanied by high fever, stiff neck, numbness, disorientation, vomiting, and nausea.

Watch a useful video to learn how to relieve headaches and migraines with self-reflexology techniques:


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  • TichawonaJan.18 21:55
    Iam a guy aged 31 .since I was born started to have headache at 29 .at first it was like toothache goes through the ear to head on my right side.these pain usually takes about an hour then disappear for three days .Now iam serious it comes twice or more per day even at Knight. I was used to heat a stone and took put myself inside a blank and put water ,the steam comes out helps for some months but now even pain killers can't help me .the duration of pain is 1-1 1/2 hour in a strong pain .the pain is in the vein from ear to head ,it swollen when pain . help me lam in hard time [email protected]
  • Amanda Nov.18 12:22
    My daughter is 17 and is having very sharp pain we jus went yhrough an EEG AND AN MRI and this morn woke up screaming said was the worse head ache ever tried to get her to let me call rescue but she wouldnt omg im so worried about her and waitn on test results
  • CandyOct.31 15:26
    I am having a pain in the back of my head like someone has taken a knife & shoved into my head & is twist & manipulating it. It isn't like one of my regular migraines this one is different but it is only on the right side of my head & I still have vision problems & nausea (like migraine) but the pain is different & in a different area than one of my usual migraines. Any advice on what might be causing this one (4 days of this no relief) migraine meds don't work, dark room & rest don't work, help I need relief. thank you
  • JulianaOct.23 13:45
    I am a young woman of 31yrs, I have been experiencing a severe and sharp pain around my left ear,feels the pain deep in my ears, it comes with vomiting and weakness, visits the toilet frequently when it comes, have been treating it for over 10 yr,pls need your help
  • DarOct.21 23:48
    I have that pain on the right side of my head too. Sharp shooting pains last about 15 to 20 Seconds then is tender to touch my head feels like it's bruised in that dpot.
  • bharat chhetriSep.14 18:05
    I am 23 yr old. I have some problem now days since 3 days. Above of my left ear their was pain. I feel that nerve is up n down that make hurt. when I used my mouth its pain to much
  • Loraine Sep.13 19:10
    I've had 4 pains , quite severe, but only lasting seconds in the top left hand side of my head ??
  • Jarmo LuukkaSep.11 14:36
    I have a pain in the back of the head
  • Amjad Aug.13 18:29
    I stopped drinking 3 years ago but now twice a day, usually 1st thing in the morning and last thing at night I get sudden severe pains going up and down left side of my head aswell as bad chest pains which last 5-10 mins . During the day I'm plagued with ringing in my ears. Does any1 else have this? My doc has diagnosed tn, but I'm worried it could be something else.
  • Diana ChildressJul.30 15:06
    I have sharp pains in the right top of my head. When I get the pain it is usually for just a few seconds then I get real dizzy, and a little sick when I have them,i can't walk a strait line. I have had migraines rinse I was 5 so it isn't that, can you tell me anything.
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