right side headache

Headaches are common and almost everyone will be affected at some point in their life. Still, figuring out your headaches can be tricky. There are many types of headaches, which vary in how they feel and where they are located, among other factors.

This article reviews potential causes of headaches on the right side of the head. It also provides insights on headache treatment and when to seek medical attention.

Causes of headache on the right side

Headaches are usually classified as primary or secondary headaches. Primary headaches stand alone, while secondary headaches are caused by pregnancy, medication, trauma, or an underlying medical condition, including infection or arthritis in the bones of the neck.

primary headache

Primary headaches that can cause pain on the right side of the head include:


Migraine is a neurological disorder that occurs in about 12% of the population and is more common in women than men.

A migraine feels like a throbbing, burning, or drilling pain on one or both sides of the head. Headaches can last from a few hours to three days, and the pain tends to get worse with physical activity.

Other symptoms of migraine include:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • Light, Sound and Odour Sensitivity
  • stuffy nose
  • stiffness and pain in the neck
  • anxiety and/or low mood
  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep)

cluster headache

Cluster headaches are severe, severe, or tingling unilateral headaches around the eyes or temples. These headaches are more common in men and can last up to three hours.

Associated symptoms appear on the same side of the headache and include:

  • Mydriasis (smaller pupils)
  • Ptosis (droopy upper eyelid)
  • watery eyes and/or redness
  • stuffy and/or runny nose
  • Facial sweating and/or flushing
  • Extremely sensitive skin
  • inability to sit still or lie down

persistent migraine

persistent migraine It is a rare unilateral headache that is more common in women and occurs continuously on a daily basis with no pain-free period. In addition to daily headaches, people experience severe headache pain (headache on top of the headache).

A persistent migraine may be accompanied by symptoms on the same side as the headache, such as:

  • red or watery eyes
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • Facial sweating or flushing
  • feeling of sand in the eyes
  • ear fullness
  • restless
  • Pain that worsens with exercise

paroxysmal migraine

paroxysmal migraine is another rare primary headache disorder. It is characterized by brief, severe attacks of headache on one side. Attacks occur at least five times a day and usually last between 2 and 30 minutes.

As with cluster headaches and persistent migraine, related symptoms appear on the same side of the headache. They may include:

  • red and/or watery eyes
  • stuffy and/or runny nose
  • swelling of the eyelids
  • Facial sweating and/or flushing
  • Mydriasis and/or ptosis
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SUNCT syndrome

“SUNCT” stands for brief unilateral neuralgia-like headache attack with conjunctival injection and tear. This syndrome causes brief, sharp pains on one side of the head, usually around one eye.

SUNCT syndrome is more common in men, with an average age of onset of 50 years. Associated symptoms include ptosis, tearing, nasal congestion, and facial sweating.

secondary headache

Secondary headaches that can cause pain on the right side of the head include:

trigeminal neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia causes sudden or consecutive episodes of severe, burning, throbbing, or shock-like pain in the face, including the cheeks, jaw, teeth, gums, lips, eyes, and forehead. Pain almost always occurs on one side of the face, with the right side being more common than the left side.

This rare condition is caused by inflammation or compression of the trigeminal nerve (your fifth cranial nerve). Common triggers for pain include talking, smiling, brushing teeth, applying makeup, and shaving.

cervicogenic headache

Cervicogenic headaches are caused by problems with the bones, joints, or soft tissues of the neck. It causes pain that starts in the neck and spreads to one side of the front of the head.

The pain of a cervicogenic headache begins or worsens with movement of the neck, and is usually accompanied by stiffness in the neck and pain in the arm or shoulder on the same side.

headache from giant cell arteritis

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), also known as temporal arteritis, is a type of vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) that affects large and medium-sized arteries. Most commonly, the arteries in the neck of the head are involved.

GCA headaches are new, severe, and usually located on one of the temples. Other symptoms that can occur with GCA include scalp tenderness, jaw claudication (pain when chewing), vision loss, and muscle stiffness and pain.

ruptured brain aneurysm

A ruptured brain aneurysm (when an enlarged artery ruptures and drains into the brain) can cause a severe, explosive headache — called a thunderclap — that is sometimes limited to one side of the head.

Thunderclap headaches reach their maximum intensity within a minute. It may be accompanied by confusion, seizures, fainting, fever, neck stiffness, and neurological abnormalities such as weakness or numbness.

Other Causes of Thunderclap Headaches

In addition to a ruptured brain aneurysm, thunderclap headaches can be associated with other serious health conditions, such as:

  • Reversible Cerebral Vasoconstriction Syndrome: When the blood vessels in your brain suddenly narrow
  • Carotid dissection: when there is a tear in the wall of an artery in the neck
  • Spontaneous intracranial hypotension: when spinal fluid pressure in the brain is low
  • Cerebral vein thrombosis: when a blood clot forms in a vein in the brain

other types of headaches

Tension-type headache is the most common primary headache disorder. Unlike the headaches mentioned above, they tend to cause generalized (whole body) headaches.

Specifically, tension-type headaches cause a grasping or rubber-band-like sensation. They are less intense than migraine or cluster headaches and are associated with light sensitivity or sound sensitivity, but not both.

There are also secondary headaches that resemble migraine or tension-type headaches, so they may appear on one or both sides of the head.

Examples of these secondary headaches include:

  • Headaches after infection are usually caused by a viral infection such as the flu (flu) or COVID-19.
  • Post-traumatic headache occurs after a traumatic brain injury and may be accompanied by dizziness, nausea, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Brain tumor headaches may be persistent and worse at night or early in the morning.
  • Headaches caused by an ischemic stroke (blockage of an artery that supplies blood to the brain) usually occur at the same time as any neurological abnormality.

unilateral primary headache

  • Migraine

  • cluster headache

  • persistent migraine

  • paroxysmal migraine

  • SUNCT syndrome

Generalized primary headache

  • tension type headache

  • Migraine


Most headaches, including those on the right side of the head, can be treated with a combination of medication and home remedies.


While mild to moderate migraine headaches are usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, including Advil or Motrin ibuprofen or Aleve naproxen sodium), more severe migraine attacks often require triptans, Like Imitrex (sumatriptan), or a combination NSAID/triptan like Treximet.

For migraine patients who cannot take or tolerate triptans, a drug that targets a specific serotonin receptor, called Reyvow (lasmiditan), may be recommended. Alternatively, try a calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) blocker such as Nurtec ODT (rimegepant).

Cluster headaches are usually first treated with inhalation of oxygen. If oxygen does not help, a triptan injection or inhalation through the nose is usually attempted. Imitrex is available in injectable and inhaled forms.

Persistent and paroxysmal migraines are relieved by taking an NSAID called Indocin (indomethacin).

SUNCT syndrome is more difficult to treat, but may respond to corticosteroids or certain antiepileptic drugs such as Lamictal (lamotrigine).

Treatment of secondary headaches requires addressing the underlying condition or medical condition.

For example, giant cell arteritis is treated with high doses of corticosteroids (sometimes called steroids)

Trigeminal neuralgia is first treated with medication, usually Tegretol (carbamazepine), Neurontin (gabapentin), or Trileptal (oxcarbazepine).

Cervicogenic headaches can be treated with a nerve pain reliever called Lyrica (pregabalin). Anesthesia (numbness) of the affected joint in the neck may help if medicines don’t work.

A ruptured brain aneurysm requires emergency brain surgery. Surgeons usually place a clip on the artery to stop it from flowing into the brain.

Why brain aneurysm surgery

home remedies

Depending on the type of headache you’re experiencing, various home remedies may help ease your headaches.


  • Migraines can be relieved by resting in a dark, quiet room and placing a cold pack or compress on the painful area.
  • Cluster headaches can be controlled with deep breathing exercises and a consistent sleep schedule. Limiting alcohol consumption and not smoking may also help.
  • Cervicogenic headaches can be treated with a range of exercise and stretching exercises (under the direction of a physical therapist). Neck/head pain can also be relieved by a cold compress or a moist warm washcloth every 10 to 15 minutes.

when to see a doctor

Most headaches are not serious or dangerous. However, in some cases, your headache will require medical attention.

Be sure to see a doctor if:

  • Your headache pattern is changing.
  • Your headache prevents you from doing your normal daily activities.
  • You have a new headache and are over the age of 65, pregnant or just given birth, or have a history of cancer or a weakened immune system.
  • Your headache is caused by sneezing, coughing, or exercising.
  • You are experiencing headaches associated with taking pain medication regularly.

seek emergency medical assistance

Go to the nearest emergency room if your headache:

  • Severe, sudden onset, and/or “the worst headache of your life”
  • Severe and painful red eye, high fever, neck stiffness, or confusion
  • Related to symptoms of a possible stroke, such as weakness, numbness, or vision changes
  • Occurs after a blow to the head


A headache located on the right side of the head can provide clues about the type of headache you are experiencing. While most unilateral headaches are migraines, some can stem from underlying problems with nerves, blood vessels, or other structures in the neck, face, or brain.

VigorTip words

Headaches can be a frustrating phenomenon. Their causes are often complex, and they vary widely in location, severity, associated symptoms, and sensations.

If you or a loved one suffers from headaches, don’t hesitate to see a headache specialist. While sorting out your headache diagnosis may take some time, try to maintain a commitment to your care. With the right treatment plan, you can finally get the relief you deserve.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When should you worry about headaches?

    Most headaches are not dangerous. However, if your headache patterns are changing or your headaches start to interfere with your daily life, you should see your healthcare provider.

    Get emergency medical attention if you have a severe, sudden headache or a headache related to a high fever, stiff neck, confusion, symptoms of a stroke, or a blow to the head.

  • How long do headaches usually last?

    How long the headache lasts depends on the type you are experiencing. For example, tension-type headaches last from 30 minutes to 7 days, migraines last from 4 to 72 hours, and cluster headaches last from 15 minutes to 3 hours.