Many people experience headaches on one side of their head only. Possible causes of a headache on the right-hand side include medication use, allergies, migraine, and neurological problems.

Headaches are the most common type of pain people experience. They can vary in duration, frequency, and the area they affect.

Read on to learn more about headaches on the right side of the head and remedies to help manage the pain.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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A headache on the right side of the head may be caused by:

Neurological issues

Various issues in the brain can cause one-sided pain in someone’s head.

The following neurological conditions may be responsible for headaches on one side:

  • Occipital neuralgia: This occurs when occipital nerves, which run from the top of the spinal cord to the scalp, become damaged or inflamed. Symptoms include sharp pain in the back of the head and neck and sensitivity to light.
  • Temporal arteritis: Arteries in the head and neck become inflamed with temporal arteritis. Along with muscle pain, it causes a severe headache on the side of the head. Other symptoms include fatigue, jaw pain, and tender temples.
  • Trigeminal neuralgia: This causes intense pain in the face and head. The pain usually affects only one side at a time. It occurs due to a disruption to the trigeminal nerve at the base of the brain.

Medication use

Headaches can be a side effect of prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. They can also occur due to someone overusing medication, including OTC painkillers such as:

This type of headache is called a medication overuse headache. It is a common type of headache, which may affect 0.5–2.6% of the global population.

Medication overuse headaches are known as secondary headaches, which occur due to another condition.

Headaches due to medication overuse are often at their worst upon waking.

Other causes

Other causes of headaches can lead to pain across the entire head or just one side.

These include:

  • allergies
  • an aneurysm, a weak or bulging artery wall
  • fatigue
  • head injury
  • infections, including sinus infections
  • fluctuations in blood sugar levels caused by missing meals
  • muscle strains or knots in the neck
  • tumors

There are over 200 types of headaches. Some are primary headaches, where headache is the main symptom. Some are secondary, where headache occurs as a symptom of another condition.

However, a migraine or a cluster headache are the most likely causes of a headache on one side of the head. Tension headaches may also cause pain on one side in some people.


Researchers believe genetics play a role in migraine. Migraine involves a type of severe headache that causes a pulsating sensation or throbbing pain in the head. It may affect a specific side of the head.

The severe pulsating sensations or throbbing are usually accompanied by:

Up to a quarter of people who get migraine experience visual disturbances or temporary loss of vision, known as aura, before the onset of the pain. Symptoms can last up to 72 hours, or more, if untreated, with the pain typically affecting only one side of the head.

Migraine triggers

The following factors can trigger migraine:

  • bright lights
  • changes in weather, including humidity, heat, and pressure
  • emotional stress or anxiety
  • foods and drinks, such as alcohol, chocolate, cheese, and cured meats
  • hormonal changes
  • loud noises
  • skipping meals
  • strong smells
  • tiredness
  • too much or too little sleep

Early treatment is key to reducing the length and severity of symptoms. Treatments include OTC or prescription medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Prevention involves avoiding triggers and using preventive medications in some cases.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are rare but severe headaches that occur in cyclical patterns. The pain is intense and usually around one eye. It may also radiate to other areas of the head and face, as well as the neck and shoulders.

People typically experience frequent headache attacks for weeks or months before a period of remission.

Other symptoms of cluster headaches include:

Males tend to experience cluster headaches more often than females. The exact cause is unknown, but smoking, alcohol use, and a family history of cluster headaches may increase risk.

There is no cure for the condition, although treatments can reduce the number and severity of cluster headaches.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, affecting around 1 in 5 people. Some people may experience chronic tension-type headaches, where people have headaches on more than 15 days every month that last several hours or may come and go.

They usually affect both sides of the head, but some people may have symptoms on one side only.

Signs include:

  • dull, aching pain
  • scalp tenderness
  • tender or tight shoulder and neck muscles
  • tightness or pressure across the forehead, sides, or back of the head

Symptoms usually last for a few minutes to a few hours and are mild to moderate in severity.

People can treat occasional tension headaches with OTC pain relievers or home remedies. People with frequent tension headaches may need to change their lifestyle, identify and avoid triggers, or use prescription medications.

Many headaches will resolve on their own without any intervention. People who experience headaches regularly should make an appointment with their doctor to identify the underlying cause.

Anyone who experiences the following symptoms alongside a headache must seek medical attention urgently:

People who have headaches that are very severe or get progressively worse should also see a doctor.

Many people can treat headaches quickly and successfully at home by trying the following:

  • applying a warm or cold compress to the back of the neck
  • avoiding foods that may trigger headaches, including alcohol, caffeine, and MSG
  • drinking water to address dehydration
  • having a nap
  • loosening tight hairstyles such as ponytails and braids
  • massaging tight muscles in the neck and shoulders
  • moving away from bright or flashing lights, loud noises, and strong smells
  • stopping slouching, as muscular tension can cause headaches
  • taking a warm bath or shower
  • taking a break from screens, including computers, tablets, and television
  • taking OTC painkillers, but avoiding excessive use as this can trigger rebound headaches
  • doing breathing exercises to reduce pain and alleviate stress and anxiety
  • using aromatherapy, diffusing oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, or peppermint oils for tension headaches

Below are some common questions about a headache on one side of the head.

Does headache location mean anything?

Understanding and identifying headache location may make it easier for a doctor to diagnose the type of headache affecting someone and plan appropriate treatment.

For example, headache pain at the front or on one side of the head typically indicates migraine or cluster headaches.

How can someone fix a headache on the right side of the head?

Some headaches may go away on their own. People can use at-home treatments, such as OTC pain relief medications or having a nap, to relieve symptoms.

However, if headaches are severe, frequent, progressively painful, or occur alongside other symptoms, including vision changes or slurred speech, people should speak with a doctor.

What is a dehydration headache?

Dehydration can cause or worsen headache symptoms and headache disorders. Staying adequately hydrated is the best method to prevent dehydration headaches.

To treat this type of headache, doctors typically treat the person’s dehydration, usually by replenishing their fluids.

Headaches are a widespread health complaint, affecting most people at least occasionally.

Most headaches are not cause for concern. Usually, symptoms will resolve within minutes to hours. Alternatively, people can ease symptoms with OTC medications, lifestyle changes, and home remedies.

People should see a doctor if headaches are severe, persist, or get progressively worse. Even if a migraine or a cluster headache is responsible for the pain, a doctor can prescribe treatments to manage symptoms and reduce the frequency of the headaches.

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