Spontaneous internal carotid artery (ICA) dissection (sICAD) results from an intimal tear located around the distal carotid sinus. The mechanisms causing the tear are unknown. This case-control study tested the hypotheses that head movements increase the wall stress in the cervical ICA and that the stress increase is greater in patients with sICAD than in controls. Five patients with unilateral, recanalized, left sICAD and five matched controls were investigated before and after maximal head rotation to the left and neck hyperextension after 45° head rotation to the left. The anatomy of the extracranial carotid arteries was assessed by magnetic resonance imaging and used to create finite element models of the right ICA. Wall stress increased after head movements. Increases above the 80th and 90th percentile were located at the intimal side of the artery wall from 7.4 mm below to 10 mm above the cranial edge of the carotid sinus, i.e., at the same location as histologically confirmed tears in patients with sICAD. Wall stress increase did not differ between patients and controls. The present findings suggest that wall stress increases at the intimal side of the artery wall surrounding the distal edge of the carotid bulb after head movements may be important for the development of carotid dissection. The lack of wall stress difference between the two groups indicates that the carotid arteries of patients with carotid dissection have either distinct functional or anatomical properties or endured unusually heavy wall stresses to initiate dissection.