Why You Experience Headache on the Left Side of the Head

Head pain is one of the symptoms that are difficult to manage because it greatly disrupts your overall function. Instead of doing the things they love, many patients opt to rest and call it a day, affecting their quality of life. This is especially when the headache isn’t the mild one you’d get occasionally. Having head pain on the left side of your head might be a sign of other headache disorders requiring more comprehensive treatment and management.

So why do you experience headaches on the left side of your head? Some of the probable causes of headaches on one side of your head include chronic migraine, cluster headache, cervicogenic, vasculitis, or brain aneurysm. Head pain on the left side might only be one of the symptoms of the conditions mentioned, so you should consult your healthcare provider to receive a diagnosis and treatment plan to cure or control your pain.

Probable Causes of Headache on the Left Side of the Head

One-sided head pain can be a case of a primary headache, or it can be a sign of an underlying health condition, making it a secondary headache. Some symptoms may easily be resolved by over-the-counter pain relievers. They may be triggered by stress, sleep deprivation, or other environmental factors.

Headache on Left Side of Head

But it’s important to note that some headaches can progress or might be signs of a chronic headache. These cases should be managed with a holistic and integrated treatment plan. Some probable conditions behind experiencing pain only at the left side of the head are chronic migraine, cluster headache, and cervicogenic. Your specialist may also suspect vasculitis and brain aneurysm.

1) Chronic Migraine

A migraine headache usually presents itself as a throbbing pain on one side of the head. This symptom can range from moderate to severe headaches, beginning usually on the temple or the eye and spreading across your head. Patients experience this pulsating sensation lasting 4 to 72 hours per migraine attack.

This type of headache can progress into chronic migraine. Chronic migraine involves severe headaches for 15 days a month or more, where at least 8 of those are migraine attacks. If you’ve been experiencing you should already seek medical attention, especially if this has been going on for 3 months.

2) Cluster Headache

Cluster headache involves severe headache radiating from behind an eye, with sensations of piercing pain at one side of the head. That’s why experiencing one-sided head pain may also be a case of this condition. Unlike the throbbing feeling from migraine attacks, cluster headaches are characterized by sharp, burning pain.

Headaches from this condition occur in episodes for around 4 to 12 weeks, affecting the same side every attack at the same time daily. It tends to stop for possibly several years after this period. The causes of cluster headaches are still unknown, but it’s related to the hypothalamus and the trigeminal system.

3) Cervicogenic Headache

The headache on the left side of the head may also be a cervicogenic headache you usually get from a neck injury, like arthritis or whiplash. You can experience a recurring headache with this condition, even after being resolved with proper treatment within 3 months. The frequency of head pain, stiff neck, and other symptoms from a cervicogenic headache differ per person, but they may occur in patterns.

4) Vasculitis

A blood vessel inflammation called vasculitis can also result in pain on the left side of your head. Patients may experience a severe headache resembling a thunderclap headache. Temporal arteritis or giant cell arteritis causes swelling of the blood vessels in the head, stimulating the nerves to send pain receptors. Patients with this condition suddenly get headaches that peak after a minute, lasting at least 5 minutes.

5) Brain Aneurysm

Your healthcare provider may also suspect a brain aneurysm if you experience pain on the left side of your head. A brain aneurysm is a blood-filled bulge in a blood vessel in your brain, which can leak or rupture and require immediate medical attention. Patients may experience sudden severe head pain like a thunderclap headache.

Why the Left Side of Your Head Hurts

Experiencing headaches may be caused by many factors. The nerves in the blood vessels and muscles at your head, face, and neck become overstimulated. They then release neurotransmitters that carry pain signals to the brain, resulting in these uncomfortable symptoms. Stress, hormonal fluctuations, and other stimuli may trigger nerves to release these signals.

Some headaches may easily be resolved by taking over-the-counter pain relievers. But if it starts happening pretty frequently and presents with localized pain, like at one side of the head, and other symptoms, you might need a more long-term treatment plan.

When Should You See a Doctor?

Some patients opt to deal with their symptoms by taking pain relievers, trying out home remedies, and getting a day’s rest. While these are helpful for mild and common headaches, some patients might already be suffering from a headache disorder that requires immediate medical attention and comprehensive treatment. Their symptoms may also be signs of a life-threatening health condition.

To know if the pain at the left side of your head already requires urgent treatment from your healthcare provider, you should be attentive to the severity and frequency of your headache.

You must also watch out for other symptoms, like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Neck pain
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Numbness or weakness of one side of the body

Patients experiencing these signs should also see their healthcare providers:

  • Experiencing severe headaches that affect daily activities
  • Worsening headache attack
  • Changes in behavior or mental function
  • Headaches occurring after head injury
  • Changes in headache patterns
  • Headaches developing in patients at least 50 years old
  • Experiencing severe headaches suddenly

Some cases of headaches are signs of a stroke or brain aneurysm, considered medical emergencies. Consult a headache specialist immediately to get to the bottom of the pain at the left side of your head.

Getting to the Bottom of Your Headache on the Left Side

Patients with frequent severe pain in the left side of their heads must consult a headache specialist to diagnose their condition and provide a holistic and integrated treatment plan. These symptoms disrupt their daily activities and keep them from doing the things they love, affecting their quality of life.

You can start your journey towards treating or managing your headache symptoms by identifying the type of pain you experience and other concurrent symptoms. Patients must also be attentive to the causes or triggers of their headaches or migraine attack.

1) Determining What Type of Pain You Experience

Consultations with your healthcare provider may start with describing what type of pain you experience. Each headache disorder has distinct types of pain, so determining this will help narrow down the probable conditions you may have been suffering from.

2) Identify Other Symptoms

It’s important to take note of other symptoms you experience to get closer to the probable condition you may be suffering from. Most headache disorders have concurrent effects aside from severe pain on the left side of the head.

3) Being Attentive to the Causes or Triggers

Try to remember the food, activity, or stimuli you’ve gotten into contact with before your headache attack. Your healthcare provider will also ask for these details to determine the causes or triggers of your headache symptoms and arrive at a closer probable health condition.

It helps to keep a journal where you can log the details of your headache attacks, including their time, date, frequency, concurrent symptoms, and type of pain. You should also include the activities you’ve done and the food and medicine you’ve had.

Here’s a summary of the probable conditions behind your headache and the signs you should watch out for:

Type of HeadacheType of PainConcurrent SymptomsCauses or Triggers
Chronic MigraineOne-sided throbbing painDizziness
Nausea and vomiting
Light and sound sensitivity
Numbness of the extremities or face
Hormonal fluctuation
Foods, like chocolate or cheese
Alcoholic beverages Sleep deprivation or oversleeping
Bright, flickering lights
Cluster HeadacheSharp, piercing or burning pain radiating from behind an eyeRunny nose
Droopy eyelid
Redness in one eye
Watering in one eye
Sweaty face
Abnormalities of the hypothalamus
Cervicogenic HeadacheDull pain from the neck to the headNeck pain that spreads to one side of the face and eyes
Stiff neck
Arm and shoulder pain
Light and sound sensitivity
Blurry vision
Neck injury
Vasculitis HeadacheSudden striking painOne-sided pain
Sudden vision loss
Discomfort when chewing
Inflamed blood vessels
Brain AneurysmSudden severe headacheNeck pain or stiff neck
Light sensitivity
Changes in vision
Loss of consciousness
Bulge in the brain’s blood vessels

4) Confirm Through Laboratory and Imaging Tests

After conducting interviews, physical examinations, and collection of medical history, your healthcare provider might already have suspected conditions behind your headache. But they will still request some laboratory and imaging tests to confirm them and rule out other probable disorders.

Some tests they may request are:

  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • X-ray
  • CT scan
  • MRI

Treatment and Management for Pain on the Left Side of the Head

Patients diagnosed with a chronic headache disorder must receive an integrated and comprehensive treatment plan to manage their symptoms. While headaches can be resolved by simply taking pain relievers, most long-term conditions involving pain on the left side of the head still don’t have a cure.

Advanced Headache Center employs a multimodal approach to managing your condition, where Harvard-trained specialists prepare a treatment plan with a combination of pharmacological and non-pharmacological options to promote your overall wellness.

They also adopt an approach, called rational polypharmacy. This involves having your medications strategize carefully to avoid codependency and adverse reactions. Rational polypharmacy focuses not only on pain medications.

Some treatment options they have for pain on the left side of the head are:

Book an Appointment at Advanced Headache Center for the Headache on the Left Side of Your Head

Headache on the left side of your head is caused by the pain signals from the nerves in the muscles or blood vessels at the head, face, and neck. This may be triggered by any stimulus in your environment, from the activities you’ve done to the food you’ve eaten. It may be a primary headache or a secondary headache, where it’s a sign of an underlying medical condition. Some of these conditions are chronic and need holistic treatment or management.

Advanced Headache Center is one of the best treatment facilities in New York and New Jersey for headaches and other types of pain. We employ holistic and integrated approaches for your overall wellness. Patients can expect Harvard-trained specialists to prepare a customized treatment plan that sets them up for success in achieving a headache-free living. Get a well-rounded treatment plan for your headache and book an appointment today. We have a convenient location in Greenwich Village and nearby areas such as New City, Paramus, Riverdale, Englewood Cliffs, and East Brunswick.

Updated on Mar 26, 2024 by Dr. Amr Hosny (Headache Specialist) of Advanced Headache Center

Amr Hosny, MD, MBA, AQH

Dr. Hosny is an Ivy League Trained, UCNS-accredited, board-certified headache specialist who offers the latest preventive and abortive treatments to provide safe and effective head pain relief. As an active member of prominent organizations and professional societies that advance headache science, education, and management, such as the National Headache Foundation, Dr. Hosney specializes in diagnosing and treating a wide range of head pain disorders, including tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches, to name a few.

Dr. Hosny's reputation for enhancing headache care quality through the use of the most effective and technologically advanced treatment options for persistent primary and secondary chronic headaches has been acknowledged by Castle Connolly and Healthgrades, where he has received over 200 positive reviews. Dr. Hosny is also recognized as a distinguished New York City physician and headache specialist by New York Magazine.

More about Dr. Hosny
Advanced Headache Center 41 5th Avenue,
New York, NY 10003
(646) 763-2222