What Causes Left-Sided Headaches?

image001Whether acute or chronic, a left sided headache can leave you unable to work, play, or do those things you want to do in the normal course of your day. Migraine, sinusitis, aneurysm, cluster headache, tension headache and other conditions might be the underlying causes of such pain. When faced with this, be sure to consult your healthcare provider for a definitive diagnosis while being aware of the symptoms and causes can help improve the treatment plan.

Causes of Left Sided Headache

1. Migraine

Migraines caused by constriction and expansion of the blood vessels in the brain may cause pain and pressure in the head. Often, this pain will be localized on one side of the head. A migraine sufferer may experience visual disturbances, nausea, vomiting and other symptoms. Typically, a migraine may be triggered by stress, smells, sounds, bright lights, food, or alcohol.

Treatment. There is no cure for migraines but your healthcare provider may prescribe one of a number of medications (sumatriptan, sandostatin, DHE 45, etc.) for symptomatic relief. If you have been diagnosed with migraine headaches, there are also home remedies that you can use.

  • Sleep. Get plenty of sleep and rest. Exhaustion is a known trigger for migraine headaches.
  • Relax. Migraines are often the result of tight muscles, so as you rest, try to relax the muscles of your neck and shoulders.Yoga, relaxation exercises and meditation may help.
  • Avoid Triggers. Most migraine sufferers know at least some of the things that trigger their headaches. Many times, certain foods will cause a left sided migraine headache which you should avoid. If alcohol or caffeine always seems to give you a headache, reduce the amount you drink in a day.
  • Exercise. In addition to creating a healthy body, exercise can also help reduce tension that may be the cause of your migraines. The more active you can be, the better, but be sure to warm up with stretching exercises before engaging in extreme exercise. Obesity has been linked to migraine headaches in some people, so exercise may also help to control your headaches by controlling your weight.
  • Reduce Estrogen. If you take any medication that contains estrogen (including hormone replacement or birth control medications), talk to your healthcare provider about reducing the dose or substituting another medication. For many women, estrogen seems to be a very strong trigger for migraines.

Watch this video for more treatment options.

2. Sinusitis

When the linings of the sinuses in the head become inflamed or infected from pollution or allergies, the resulting condition is sinusitis. Sinusitis is often misdiagnosed as a migraine or some other sort of headache since the headache may be as intense. Typically, the other symptoms associated with migraines are NOT associated with sinusitis.

Treatment. Medical treatment for sinusitis may include prescription antibiotics and nasal sprays for infection or inflammation. Home remedies are based on the concept of preventing sinusitis. These preventative techniques include good hand hygiene, avoidance of air pollution and other sinus irritants, and using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

3. Aneurysms

An aneurysm is a pouching of an artery in the head that may not cause any symptoms until it becomes very large or bursts. As the pressure in the brain increases, the headache can be sudden and very severe. If the aneurysm is on the left side of the brain, a left sided headache will result.

Treatment. If an aneurysm is causing trouble, the definitive treatment is usually surgery to clip the aneurysm and prevent rupture. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe statins and will recommend that you control your blood pressure and quit smoking if you are a smoker.

4. Cluster Headache

A cluster headache is a severe headache that typically starts on one side of the head but may radiate into other areas of the head and neck. With a cluster headache, you may experience severe pain in the eye, a droopy eyelid, tearing from the eye on the affected side, a runny or stuffy nose, and swelling of the face on the affected side. You may have nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. The headaches may occur every day, and then disappear for a period of time.

Treatment. There is no cure for a cluster headache but your healthcare provider may prescribe one of the medications normally used for migraines (sumatriptan, sandostatin, DHE 45, etc.) for symptomatic relief. If you have been diagnosed with cluster headaches, there are also home remedies that you can use.

  • Keep a Healthy Sleep Schedule. As much as possible keep a healthy sleeping schedule that provides plenty of rest.
  • Avoid Alcohol. Avoid alcohol when you are in periods where you are having cluster headaches since alcohol may be a potent trigger for many people.

5. Tension Headache

A tension headache often presents as a dull pain in the head with localized pressure on one side of the head. You may also experience pain or tightness in your neck and shoulders. Although you may be more sensitive to light with a tension headache, you typically will NOT have other symptoms that are usually associated with migraines.

Treatment. Medical treatment for tension headaches usually involves over-the-counter or mild prescription pain medications. Some healthcare providers may also prescribe antidepressants or muscle relaxers if your tension headaches become chronic. Home remedies can also lessen the impact of a tension headache:

  • Reduce Stress. Since stress is a common trigger of tension headaches, anything you can do to reduce stress will help to treat and prevent left sided tension headaches. Relax when you can. Some people find yoga or meditation helpful in decreasing stress.
  • Apply Hot or Cold. Experiment with warm or cool compresses on your head, neck and shoulders. Some sufferers prefer heat while others prefer cold. Try alternating hot and cold.
  • Watch Posture. Stand up straight with your head high and your shoulders thrown back. Allow your muscles to work as little as possible to keep your body in alignment. This will keep your muscles loose and your spine well-aligned.
  • Try Acupressure. Acupressure or acupuncture is proven techniques to decrease the severity of a left sided headache. Although acupuncture is only done by a practitioner, you can do acupressure for yourself. On each point, use steady pressure for about 30 seconds at the first sign of a headache.

6. Other Causes

There are many other causes including injury to the head or neck, health conditions such as shingles, high blood pressure or heart disease, tension, dehydration, allergic reactions, certain medication interactions, eye strain, problems with your teeth, or even something as simple as sleeping on a pillow that does not support your neck. If you have frequent or very severe headaches, be sure to contact your healthcare provider to find out what is causing the headache.

When to See a Doctor

A headache can be a minor but painful inconvenience or it can be a sign of a much more serious problem. Be sure to see a healthcare provider immediately if you have a headache with fever or stiff neck or if you experience trouble speaking, understanding someone speaking to you, walking, or seeing. If you are having more frequent or more severe headaches or if they are preventing you from doing your normal activities, schedule an appointment to see your healthcare provider.