What Causes Headaches on The Right Side of The Head?

Headaches can occur anywhere in the area of your face, back of the head, temples, or neck. Your head pain is caused by a myriad of factors that can be as mild as lack of sleep or as severe as a brain bleed.

So what does a headache on the right side of the head mean? A right-sided headache may be caused by headache disorders such as a tension headache, migraine headache, or cluster headache. A headache can come in many different types, but only certain types can be felt on the right side of the head.

Understanding Your Headache on the Right Side of Head

There are many types of headache disorders, with different causes and sources of pain such as neck pain and facial pain aside from head pain. There is tension-type headache and sex headache, which are primary headache disorders that arise due to intense sexual activity.

You can tell what type of headache you have by finding out if it starts on the right side of your head. A one-sided headache is typically caused by migraines, but it can also be caused by nerves, blood vessels, or other structures located in your neck, face, or brain.

Additionally, head pain on the right side of the head may also be caused by chronic health conditions such as arthritis or trigeminal neuralgia. Although right-sided headaches aren’t always dangerous, it’s still important to understand the type of headache disorder causing right-sided pain in your head.

Migraine Headache

Types of Headache on the Right Side of Head

Various types of headaches can occur, but only some will be felt just on the right side of the head, for example:

1) Migraine Headache

Migraine pain is described as throbbing pain. This headache disorder can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, and blurred vision.

Migraine headaches may result in post-traumatic headaches after an incidence of concussion or traumatic brain injury. Additionally, migraine headaches can affect both sides of your head, or it may also occur on just 1 side.

Auras can also be experienced by an individual before or during a migraine flare-up. Auras can have positive or negative symptoms, which differ in the functionality of the motor systems during such an attack. Positive symptoms of aura usually include sensory malfunction, while negative symptoms involve total loss of sensory function.

2) Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are painful headaches that involve only 1 side of the head, and can be accompanied by other symptoms such as the following:

  • Restlessness
  • Redness of the affected eye
  • Runny nose on the affected side of the head

3) Hemicrania Continua Headache

This headache disorder is a continuously occurring moderate to intense daily headache on 1 side of the head. This head pain usually lasts nonstop for up to 3 months.

4) Paroxysmal Hemicrania Headache

Similar to hemicrania continua headache, paroxysmal hemicrania headache also occurs on 1 side of the head, however, this condition involves shorter attacks with no other symptoms experienced during the time between the attacks.

5) SUNCT and SUNA

Short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with conjunctival injection and tearing, and short-lasting unilateral neuralgiform headache with cranial autonomic symptoms are headaches that occur on 1 side of the head, and rarely affects individuals. Additionally, these headaches may be accompanied by teary eyes and runny nose.

Causes of Headache on Right Side of Head

Pain on the right side of the head can be caused by a variety of factors that may be within or out of your control. It’s important to take note that only a qualified healthcare provider can accurately diagnose the cause of your right-sided headache.

1) Lifestyle Factors

Stress factors and consumption habits are factors that can cause headache, particularly the following:

  • Stress
  • Skipping meals
  • Excessive caffeine consumption
  • Muscle problem in the neck or neck pain
  • Medication overuse

2) Sinus Infections and Allergies

Sinus infection and allergy can cause a sinus headache, which is a secondary headache. The inflammation associated with a sinus infection leads to pressure and pain behind your cheekbones and forehead during a sinus headache. If your sinus infection and allergy remain unresolved, then you may experience a frequent headache.

3) Medications

Medication overuse isn’t just the cause of headaches associated with medications, there are certain medications that simply cause headaches on the right side of the head. Additionally, excessive use of headache treatment medications is actually a common cause of secondary headache disorder.

Medication overuse headache usually occurs due to overuse of pain relievers for migraine headache. So don’t self-medicate and be dependent on over-the-counter pain relief medication because your worst headache may result in another headache disorder.

Pain relievers containing caffeine may also cause a medication overuse headache or rebound headache. Medication overuse can cause structural and functional changes to the brain, which can lead to headaches.

Certain medications that can cause headaches on the right side of the head if overused are the following:

  • Simple analgesics (i.e, acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs)
  • Pain relievers
  • Triptans
  • Ergotamines
  • Opioids
MedicationMaximum days of use before medication overuse headache
Simple Analgesics10 days
Other Pain Relievers15 days
Triptans, ergotamines, and opioids10 days

4) Neurological Causes

Headaches on the right side of the head may also arise due to a neurological symptom, which may be either of the following:

  • Occipital neuralgia. Irritation of one of the occipital nerves in the spine of your upper neck that run through the muscles to your scalp can cause pain on one side of the head. This head pain is described as shooting, electric, or tingling pain.
  • Temporal arteritis. Pain on the right side of the head can be caused by a condition called temporal arteritis, in which you have inflamed or damaged arteries that are crucial to facilitate regular blood supply to your head and brain.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia. This is a chronic condition where head pain on one side is experienced because the nerve that carries the sensation from the face to the brain is affected.

5) Medical Factors

Various medical conditions may increase your risk of pain on the right side of the head, but the absence of these health issues doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re no longer at risk for right-sided headaches.

Such medical causes that can lead to right-sided headaches are:

  • Heredity or genetics
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep apnea

6) Other Triggers and Causes

Right-sided headaches can be caused by life-threatening underlying conditions such as:

  • Aneurysm
  • Brain tumor
  • Stroke

How Common Are Headaches on the Right Side of Head?

Right-sided headaches are common, but the instances that they occur as a direct result of a dangerous underlying condition is rare. However, it’s still necessary to consult with a headache specialist or a neurologist or to conduct a thorough examination that can rule out secondary headaches that may be indicative of detrimental causes.

When You Should See a Doctor for Right-Sided Headaches

Right-sided headaches are generally normal, and not a cause of an underlying condition that needs immediate medical attention. Right-sided headaches may be chronic headaches but it’s different from an ice pick headache or other secondary headaches such as thunderclap headaches, which is characterized by individuals who have had it as the worst headache.

However, you may want to see your healthcare provider if you’re:

  • Experiencing a recurring headache or changes in the frequency of your headache
  • Experiencing escalating severe headache
  • Having a chronic headache or a headache that lasts more than 2 days up to 15 days in a month
  • Having sudden and severe headache

On the other hand, it’s recommended to seek immediate medical attention for headache that is accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Fever or fatigue
  • Stiff neck
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • Pain near your temples
  • Pain that escalates when moving or coughing

Management and Treatment of Headache on Right Side of Head

Treatment plan for your headache depends on the type of right-sided headache that you’re experiencing, along with its severity. Only a qualified healthcare provider can come up with an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan to manage or resolve your right-sided headache.

Some treatments may include:

1) Home Remedies

Home remedies may provide a quick temporary fix to your right-sided headache or a reliable pain management system for frequent headaches. However, don’t expect home remedies to provide long-term cure for your right-sided headache, unless your provider merely recommended this as your sole treatment.

One quick tip to avoid frequent headaches is to keep a headache diary to accurately identify triggers.

Other home remedies may include the following:

  • Application of a warm compress at the back of the neck
  • Warm shower

Certain home remedies that can specifically improve the condition of your right-sided head pain are shown in the table below.

Type of HeadacheHelpful Home Remedies
Migraine HeadacheRest in a dark, quiet room to avoid possible triggers. You can also apply ice on the area of pain for increased comfort.
Cluster HeadachePerform deep breathing exercises and maintain a constant sleep schedule. You should also avoid alcohol consumption and smoking to reduce the risk of cluster headaches.

Additionally, some changes to your lifestyle habits that you may easily do include:

  • Improvement of mental health and well-being
  • Improvement of posture
  • Fix sleeping habits
  • Avoid ponytail, braid or bun
  • Avoid consumption of foods that increase your blood pressure
  • Increase hydration

2) Medication

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can be used to treat right-sided headaches. To reduce the risk of right-sided headaches due to medication overuse, it’s better to consult with your healthcare provider for an appropriate medication for right-sided headache relief.

Below are the medications that are usually prescribed to each kind of right-sided headache:

Type of HeadacheMedication Prescribed
Migraine HeadacheNonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), Triptan, Reyvow, Calcitonin
Cluster HeadacheTriptan, Oxygen
Hemicrania Continua and Paroxysmal HemicraniaNSAIDs
SUNCT SyndromeCorticosteroids, Lamictal

3) Brain Surgery

Although right-sided headaches aren’t really caused by a serious or dangerous underlying condition, there are cases when this headache disorder is actually a direct result of a brain tumor or aneurysm that requires immediate medical attention. Brain surgery is often needed to resolve this kind of right-sided headache, but these instances aren’t common.

Integrative Treatments for Headache Pain Relief at Advanced Headache Center

Right-sided headaches can be caused by different types of headache disorders. Although headaches on the right side of the head aren’t always dangerous like secondary headaches, and typically go away on their own, it’s still important to seek an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan from a qualified healthcare provider.

Here at Advanced Headache Center, our team can diagnose all types of headaches like right-sided headache disorder, and recommend the best possible treatment plan for you. We also offer treatments for other sources of severe pain and chronic pain such as secondary headaches.

For fast headache relief in New York City and northern New Jersey, contact Advanced Headache Center. We have a convenient location in Greenwich Village and nearby areas such as New City, Paramus, Riverdale, Englewood Cliffs, and East Brunswick.

Updated on Feb 2, 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