Many conditions could cause a shooting pain in your head. Migraine headaches are among the most common of causes for head pain. But migraines generally cause more of a dull ache or throbbing pain, rather than sharp pain.
Sharp pain in the head can manifest itself suddenly, with little warning, and it may occur on one or both sides of your head. In serious cases, this type of pain could impair your ability to perform your daily living activities.
If your headache is more severe, and doesn’t improve with any of the remedies we suggest in this article, it could be symptomatic of a medical issue that is more severe, and you will want to consult your physician.
The good news? Those serious problems are rare. Most headaches will ease themselves or respond to remedies like those we are sharing. But a shooting pain in the head is nothing to play with. If you have any doubt, consult your physician for proper medical treatment.
What Could that Shooting Pain in Head Mean?
- Tension-Type Headaches
About 75% of adults have tension headaches at some time. They range from mild to moderate severity, and they’re the most common kind of headache that adults experience. You may experience this type of headache three or four days a week.
What does it feel like? The shooting pain in your head is usually dull, and feels like something is squeezing your head from both sides. In addition to the squeezing, you may feel achy shoulders or neck, emotional stress, fatigue or other joint and muscle pain. Tension headaches usually only last for between 20 minutes and an hour.
What can you do? As a rule, over the counter headache pain medications will be helpful in relieving a tension headache. Be sure not to take more than the label recommended dosage. You can also relieve your tension headache by sleeping, getting a massage, taking a nice warm shower, or using a heating pad.
Many people suffer from migraines and don’t even realize it. They believe they are experiencing tension or sinus headaches, not migraines.
What do migraines feel like? They usually occur in the evening hours or during sleep, after a period of restlessness, irritability, sluggishness, depression or fatigue. Many migraine sufferers complain about visual impairments including flashing lights, wavy lines, halos, sparkles and even vision loss.
Sometimes a migraine will begin with an aura, which is a neurological symptom. Many times they will begin without an aura. The aura that precludes a migraine can even cause a tingling sensation or slight numbness on one side of your face and body, or one hand. You may also suffer a migraine that includes just the aura without any shooting pain in the head.
When migraines start without any aura, there may be severe pain around one temple or eye, and it can eventually move to the back of your head. The pain usually will be accompanied by pulsating, throbbing sensations that can lead to congestion, a runny nose, watering eyes or nausea.
How do you Know if it’s a Migraine or Sinus Headache?
Symptoms of migraines often cause them to be misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches. They affect the same basic area of the head. However, if your headache pain persists while you’re lying down for several hours, and these headaches repeat themselves, you are probably experiencing migraines.
What can you do? If you realize from the aura or other indicators that you are developing a migraine, relieve the symptoms with massage, resting or a cold pack across your forehead and eyes. Many times, though, you’ll need medications to aid in the reduction of the migraine’s attack.
- Sinus Headaches
These headaches are typically caused by an acute case of sinusitis. Symptoms of sinus headaches include pain in the eyes, nose, forehead, upper cheeks and even in your upper teeth. If you lean forward, the pain will increase. Treating sinusitis will also treat the sinus headache symptoms.
- Ice Pick Headaches
These headaches are stabbing headaches that are isolated to one region of the head. Thankfully, they are usually quite short in duration, but the stabbing pains can be frightening. The shooting pain in the head is usually brief, lasting only between five seconds and half a minute.
These headaches can be scary, since they come out of nowhere and can occur in any area of the head. They are well-named, since they feel like someone is actually pushing an ice pick into your skull. They will usually disappear before you can determine their cause.
- Cluster Headaches
The main symptom of these headaches is intense pain that ratchets to its highest level in about five minutes. They can last up to an hour and a half and return a few times throughout the same day.
Agitation is also a symptom of cluster headaches. People with cluster headaches may scream, pace the floor, or, in extreme cases, even bang their heads on the wall.
- Medication Headaches
You may have headaches as a side effect from medications you take. Ironically, even some headache medicines can cause headaches. If you have headaches more often than 10 to 15 days a month and you use OTC or prescription meds for any purpose, you may be overusing them, and this can be causing your headaches.
Always speak to your physician before you discontinue a prescribed medication.
- Giant Cell Arteritis
Giant cell arteritis can cause shooting pain in your head, specifically on the left side. The condition occurs when your arterial lining in the head becomes inflamed. This causes severe pain. The pain is usually localized in the temple area.
Some common symptoms experienced with giant cell arteritis include weight loss, fever, jaw pain when chewing, tenderness and sharp, persistent pain. If this goes untreated, it can lead to other health issues like blindness or stroke.
- Brain Tumor
One of the main brain tumor symptoms is a sharp and shooting pain in your head. It typically occurs on the left side. Brain tumors share space with the brain within the skull, so they can disrupt normal activities of the brain.
You will also feel added pressure in the skull if you have a brain tumor. The brain can shift somewhat, or you could have brain tissue and nerve damage. The larger the tumor, the greater the pain you will experience.
The most positive treatment for pain like this is consulting your physician to have a treatment plan created. If you have severe headache pain along with vision issues, difficulties in speaking, loss of hearing, dizzy spells, loss of balance and vision issues, you need to consult your physician right away.
- Exertional Headaches
The pain experienced with this type of headache is pulsating and explosive. They are sometimes brought on by subarachnoid hemorrhaging or sinus disease. These problems cause a build-up of pressure and cause exertional headaches. Most people who have this type of headache don’t suffer from either of those diseases. Still, consult your physician if you experience a pulsating shooting pain in your head.
- Occipital Neuralgia
Your occipital nerves travel from the highest point of your spinal cord, through your scalp. When they become inflamed or injured, this is known as occipital neuralgia. The pain is sometimes confused with that of migraines, since the symptoms are similar. It is, however, a specific disorder that must be properly diagnosed in order to provide treatment.
If you have occipital neuralgia, the pain may feel like a severe stabbing in the back of your neck or head. The pain can come with one or more other symptoms, including pain caused when you move your neck, a tender scalp, severe sensitivity to light, pain behind either eye or pain on either side of the head, or both sides.
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
This disorder cause sharp, shooting pain in your head, on the left side. It sometimes is described as being like an electric shock occurring around your face. This medical issue usually affects older adults.
Some of the causes of trigeminal neuralgia include trigeminal nerve inflammation, multiple sclerosis and nerve entrapment. In addition to sharp, shooting pain, you might also have shorter bouts with intense pain that increases as time passes or is located in just one region of the head.
What can you do?
Most headaches are just a temporary distraction in your daily routine. You can reduce some headache pain by making simple lifestyle changes. Resting, having massage sessions, and performing yoga and relaxation techniques will sometimes help.
If you have a persistent headache, you can use OTC and prescription meds to aid in relieving the systems. If you experience the severe symptoms in this article, you need to consult your physician promptly, to have the headache treated properly.