Right Side Head Pain: The Meaning of Right Sided Headache

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Right Side Head Pain: What is the Meaning of Right Sided Headache?
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Right side head pain can cause dull aches on one side of your head or sharp, stabbing pains behind your right eye. Right-sided headaches can be anything from a mild inconvenience to debilitating head pain that affects your daily activities. Stress, tiredness, tight neck muscles, or sinus infections can all cause pain on the right side of your head.

Thankfully, right side head pain or left side headaches are rarely a sign of a serious medical condition. However, even though throbbing pain on the right side of your head may be nothing to worry about, you probably wonder what it means.

No one likes to suffer from temple pain or a pounding headache on one side of the head. Usually, something as simple as a cold compress is enough to relieve the severe headache pain. Also, massaging your temples or your neck at the base of the skull can help to relieve tension, irritation, or muscle tightness that is causing head pain.

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In this article, you will find out what it can mean if you have a right-sided headache.

Pain on Right Side of Head

Many types of headache can affect just the right side of your head or the left side. Actually, your brain and skull have no nerve endings and so any type of headache only affecting one side is usually connected to your nerves or arteries on either side of your head. So, it is quite common to feel pain on only one side of the head or skull.

For example, the journal Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy says that the temporal arteries travel from the right side of the neck up behind the temples to the forehead. Also, under your scalp is a complex series of nerves that can hurt if irritated, inflamed, or damaged.

Also, inflammation of the joints in your jaw or bony structure behind your ear can cause sharp, stabbing pains or a burning sensation behind your ear. Or, if an infection of your sinuses has only affected the right side, you will probably feel pressure in your right forehead and under your right eye.

Symptoms of Right Side Head Pain

Mild to severe headaches on the right side of your head or behind one eye are usually accompanied by other symptoms. Knowing these other symptoms can help you identify the root cause of your headache.

According to neurologist Dr. Danette C. Taylor on eMedicineHealth, other symptoms of a one-sided headache can include:1

  • Throbbing, relentless pain on one side of the head
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Head pain that wakes you up during the night
  • Pulsing head pain that starts on one side of the head and can spread to both sides
  • Tenderness of the scalp
  • Sore, stiff neck that radiates pain to the temple area (can be an emergency if accompanied by a fever)
  • Stabbing, piercing headache that can last for up to a few hours
  • Stuffy nose or blocked sinuses
  • Blowing discolored snot from your nose
  • Swelling on one side of your face
  • Slurred speech or changes in vision that can be a simple migraine or signs of a stroke

Is Right Sided Headache Pain a Cause for Concern?

Head pain on only one side of your head is rarely a reason to worry. Even very severe headaches that have a debilitating effect usually go away with medication and/or rest.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that many causes of even severe headaches are due to chemical activity in the brain. This can affect the blood vessels, nerves, or muscles in your head and neck. Also, many left-sided or right-sided headaches are connected to our lifestyle choices.2

Because constant pain on the right side of your head can indicate a more serious condition, you should never ignore that type of pain.

Types of Headache that Affect the Right Side

First, let’s look in more detail at reasons for throbbing pains on the right side of the head that are associated with primary headaches.

Migraine

A throbbing headache that only affects the right side of your head or left side is often caused by a migraine. Migraines can result in debilitating pounding pain that can last from a few hours up to a few days.

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The journal Reviews in Pain reports that throbbing pain on one side of the head is a common symptom of a migraine. This may also result in vision disturbance like seeing spots, flashing lights or even temporary vision loss. Physical activity usually intensifies the pulsating head pain.2

Other migraine symptoms can be any of the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting that may or may not result in easing your symptoms
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Thumping one-sided head pain that is preceded by tingling in the face or hand

Sometimes, getting some sleep is enough to ease a pulsating headache. You can also try some of my natural cures for migraine pain to help get relief. For example, some essential oils can help lift a migraine and help manage the pain better.

Cluster headaches

Sudden sharp pains in your right temple could be an indication of a cluster headache. Doctors say that cluster headaches are caused by irritation to the trigeminal nerves that are near your eye and forehead.

According to Dr. Richard Senelick on WebMD, cluster headaches can cause one-sided head pain behind the eye. The headache pain is described as burning or piercing and can feel like a constant throb. The sharp pain behind your eye may spread to your temple, forehead, cheek, or gum. You may also experience tenderness of the scalp.4

Anxiety headaches

Headaches caused by anxiety can be a reason for dull throbbing pain on the right side of your head.

Dr. Smitha Bhandari, who is an expert in neurology and psychiatry, says that anxiety and headaches are closely connected. For example, many people who suffer from anxiety disorder also have recurring headaches. However, anxiety can also trigger headaches that cause pounding pain on one side of the head, like migraines and cluster headaches.5

To help reduce the effect that anxiety has on your body, it’s important to find ways to relieve stress naturally. For example, you can rub some lavender oil on your temples to ease headaches and reduce feelings of stress.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are one of the most common reasons for headaches, and they can sometimes just cause head pain on the right side.

According to Dr. Manish K. Singh, a neurologist from Hahnemann University Hospital, tension headaches cause mild to severe head pain. Usually, the constant dull pain is felt on both sides of the head. However, in about 20% of cases, a tension headache can cause localized pain on the right side or left side of the head.6   

Other symptoms of a tension headache can include:

Dr. Singh explains that most tension headaches are the result of stress, lack of sleep, hunger, or bad posture.

Ice pick headaches

Short, stabbing pains in your head that last for up to 30 seconds could be an ice pick headache. Doctors are not sure what causes ice pick headaches and they don’t last long enough to treat them.

Dr. Colin Tidy on Patient.info says that ice pick headaches can cause severe sharp pain just behind the ear.7 Some other symptoms of ice pick headaches can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or sensitivity to light.

Right Side Head Pain at Back of Head

Let’s look in more detail at causes of pain on the right side of the head that are connected to nerves in your cervical spine.

Cervicogenic headache

A cervicogenic headache can cause constant pain that starts from the base of your skull and spreads to the temple on the right side.

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The British Journal of Medical Practitioners reports that cervicogenic headaches are caused by nerve damage or irritation to nerves or vertebrae in the neck. This can cause dull, achy pain in the neck and back of the head. In some cases, the pain from the base of the skull radiates to one side of the temples or forehead. In some cases, cervicogenic headaches can cause some of the following symptoms:7

  • Blurred vision
  • Light sensitivity
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Migraine-like symptoms

One way to relieve headaches that are caused by cervicogenic headaches is to do neck stretches and exercises for your neck. Sometimes, you may need to see a physical therapist to pop your back and release tension from your spinal nerves.

Occipital neuralgia

Irritation of your occipital nerves on each side of your head can cause intense, sharp shooting pains on one side of your head.

According to Dr. Danette C. Taylor on MedicineNet, occipital neuralgia can cause pain in the back of the neck that travels along one side of the head. The pain can range from dull and throbbing to sharp and stabbing. Moving your neck may increase the pain behind your right temple.8

Usually, heating pads, rest, or massage are the best ways to relive a headache on the right side of your head.

Causes of Secondary Headaches on Right Side of Head

There are some medical conditions that can cause secondary headaches and they will often be accompanied by more symptoms than just one-sided head pain.

Upper respiratory infections

Infections of your respiratory tract such as the cold or flu can cause a sensation of pressure on the right side of your head.

Dr. Hien H. Nguyen, a doctor who specializes in infectious diseases, says that various types of headaches are usually associated with cold and flu infections. Inflammation in your respiratory tract can cause swelling that results in mild to severe headaches. Very often, the head pain is felt just behind the eye.9

Other symptoms of a cold or flu that accompany one-sided head pain can include:

To help get rid of the flu faster, you can try some home remedies like honey for its antimicrobial properties. Also, garlic is used by many as a natural treatment for cold infections.

Sinus headache

Right side head pain in your forehead along with blocked sinuses could be a sinus headache. Sinusitis can be a result of a cold or flu infection or it could be caused by an allergy.

Your sinuses are small cavities in your forehead and under your eyes. According to Dr. Tejas Raval, blocked sinuses above your nose can cause pain behind your eye or in one or both temples. This can cause deep, aching pain that is localized to the frontal area of your head.10

Other symptoms of sinusitis, apart from a sinus headache, can include:

  • Nasal congestion and a need to get rid of mucus from your throat
  • Tenderness between your eyes
  • A hacky cough
  • Blowing mucus from your nose
  • Headaches that spread across your forehead
  • Fever

There are many essential oils with expectorant properties that can help to relieve sinusitis symptoms. Inhaling eucalyptus oil can help to unblock stuffy nasal passages and help to reduce forehead and temple pain. Or you can try my other home remedies for sinusitis such as neti pot.

Temporal arteritis (giant cell arteritis)

Pain and tenderness in the right temple could be caused by a condition called temporal arteritis or giant cell arteritis.

Temporal arteritis describes a condition where one of the arteries on one side of your head become inflamed and sore. Dr. Mythili Seetharaman on Medscape says that temporal arteritis usually causes one-sided head pain. This can feel like the temple is pulsating and you may have sharp pain behind your right eye.11

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Other symptoms of temporal arteritis can include:

  • Neck pain and shoulder pain
  • A relentless headache on one side of your head
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurry vision or loss of vision

Because temporal arteritis increases your risk of stroke, you should see a doctor if you have any of the symptoms, especially if you are over 50.

Skeletal Causes of Sharp Pain in Right Temple

Some skeletal disorders with your jaw or area behind your ear can also cause chronic pain that affects just the right side of your head.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD, TMJ)

Severe pain near your right temple and in front of your ear may be caused by inflammation in your temporomandibular joint (TMJ). This is the part of your skull that joins to your jaw bone.

The journal Pain Research and Management reports that one-sided pain at the front of your head is common with temporomandibular joint disorder. Depending on the extent of the problem, the right-sided pain may come and go or it can be constant. TMD can also trigger migraine headaches and make the back of your head hurt.12

Along with one of your temples being sore, TMD may also cause:

  • Painful chewing
  • Ear pain
  • Swelling in one of your cheeks
  • Facial pain

Mastoiditis

Your mastoid bone is also called the mastoid process and is a bony structure located behind your ear that can cause severe pain and swelling if infected.

According to Dr. John P. Cunha on MedicineNet, pain behind your ear can occur if an inner ear infection affects your mastoid bone. The inflammation can cause a noticeable lump behind your ear. Mastoiditis can also cause any of the following symptoms:13

Even though you can treat many ear infections at home, if you have symptoms of mastoiditis, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.

Lifestyle Choices and Right-Side Headache Pain

It is good to remember that a common cause of right side headache pain is due to our lifestyle choices. Sometimes, making a few changes is enough to reduce the severity and frequency of one-sided headaches.

Stress

Stress may be causing stabbing pains on one side of the head because it can trigger headaches. The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry reports that extreme emotional stress can cause migraines and cluster headaches.14

Lack of exercise

Some reports seem to suggest that people who are not physically active suffer from migraines and tension-type headaches more frequently than those who regularly exercise.15

Drinking too much alcohol

It is well known that drinking too much alcohol can cause a pounding headache and nausea in the next morning. However, researchers from Johns Hopkins say that even drinking small amounts of alcohol can trigger severe migraine-type headaches in some people.16

Hunger

Pangs of hunger cannot just increase stomach acid and give you abdominal pain but it can also cause a throbbing headache. Research published in the journal BMC Research Notes found that nearly one-third of all types of headaches are connected to hunger.17

Smoking

Research carried out in 2018 found that smokers are at a greater risk of having throbbing headaches than nonsmokers. Smoking increases the frequency of migraines that cause pulsating pain on one side of the head.18

Other Causes of Pain on Right Side of Head

There are a number of less-common causes of headaches that only affect one side of your head.

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  • Compression headaches. Any constant pressure on your head can cause localized pain on the right or left side. Dr. Abouch Krymacantowski on Medscape says that hats, helmets, or headbands can cause pressure on the forehead or scalp.19
  • Nummular headaches. These types of headaches cause pain in a small localized area on one side of your head. Nummular headaches can affect a size of your scalp up to 6 cm in diameter and usually affects the top of the head or either side of the head.20
  • Stroke. In some cases, the symptoms of a stroke can feel like throbbing pain on one side of the head like a migraine. Dr. John Cuhna on MedicineNet says that severe head pain with a stroke happens if a blood vessel bursts. This is accompanied by facial numbness, confusion, and loss of balance.21
  • Brain tumor. Dr. Kaisorn Chiachana from Johns Hopkins says that it’s very rare that sharp pains on the side or back of your head are symptomatic of a brain tumor.22

Causes of Headache with Neck Pain on Right Side

Neck and head pain can be very discomforting because moving your neck can intensify a throbbing headache. Some reasons for pain on right side of head and neck can include:

  • Cervicogenic headache. Problems with the vertebrae in the back of your neck can cause a stiff painful neck and a headache on one side of your head.
  • Occipital neuralgia. Pinched nerves in your neck can cause pain that starts at the top of your neck and spreads to the area behind one eye.
  • Mastoiditis. Inflammation behind your right ear will cause dull pain on the right side of the head and also a stiff neck. You may also have tenderness at the top right side of your neck.

Home Remedies to Treat Right Side Head Pain Without Medication

There are many ways to relieve one-sided headaches that cause sudden shooting pains or dull intense headaches without using medication.

Here are some ways to ease a headache above the right eye or pain on the right side or back of your head.

  • Painkillers. First of all, try some natural alternatives to ibuprofen to help lift your headache and get rid of the pain in your head.
  • Warm or cold compress. Put a cold compress on your right temple to help ease a throbbing migraine. The cold compress helps to reduce irritation and numb the pain. Alternatively, you can place a warm compress on the back of your head to help relax tense muscles that are causing head pain.
  • Take a warm bath. A warm bath can help to ease tension headaches and relax the tight muscles in your neck and shoulders. Add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to your bath to help clear your sinuses and get rid of a sinus headache.
  • Sleep. Sometimes, all you need to do to get rid of a pounding headache is get some extra sleep. Sleep helps your brain relax and can boost the effectiveness of painkillers.
  • Eat something. Eating a light snack or a meal can help to reduce the intensity of a headache. Also, a light meal will boost your sugar levels and help your brain to function better.

How to use essential oils to get rid of headaches

One way to help relieve throbbing pain on the right side of your head is to use a combination of essential oils. Many essential oils have analgesic properties that are very effective in getting rid of headaches naturally.

To use essential oils to treat a headache, try some of the following:

  • Lavender oil. One of the best essential oils for headaches that helps to relieve intense migraine pain.
  • Eucalyptus oil. This has a double effect of helping to unblock sinuses and cool irritated and inflamed nerves.
  • Chamomile oil. Can help to calm nerves to ease tension and anxiety headaches.
  • Rosemary oil. Has anti-inflammatory properties which work great on migraines.
  • Peppermint oil. Has cooling effect and help in sinusitis relief.

Head massage for headache pain relief

Is massaging your temples effective for headache relief? Yes. The journal Cephalalgia says that massaging the temples can help to relieve symptoms of many types of headache. You can boost the effectiveness of the temple massage by using an essential oil blend to treat dull to intense pains on the right side of your head.

How to massage your temples for headache relief:

  1. Add 4 drops lavender oil, 4 drops eucalyptus oil, and 4 drops peppermint oil to 1 oz. of sweet almond oil or other carrier oil.
  2. Take some of the oil blend on your fingertips and gently massage your temples.
  3. Place your thumbs on your temples and then massage your scalp with the tips of your fingers to get rid of headache pain.
  4. Keep massaging for 3 to 4 minutes and then relax with your eyes closed to help get rid of your headache quickly.

When to See a Doctor for Right Side Head Pain

It’s good to remember that most causes of right side head pain are rarely a symptom of a serious medical condition. Even intense, throbbing headaches that only affect the right side can be caused by a lack of sleep, fatigue, or a migraine.

Severe headaches with certain accompanying symptoms can, however, be symptomatic of a serious condition. According to Dr. Lawrence Newman on WebMD, you should see a doctor for your headaches if you also have any of the following symptoms:

  • A severe headache that is accompanied by fever, a rash, stiff neck, and vomiting.
  • Facial pain or one-sided head pain along with slurred speech or facial tingling/numbness.
  • Frequent headaches accompany changes in behavior or personality changes.
  • You are over 55 and start getting a new type of headache.
  • Coughing, bending over, or physical activity triggers headaches.
  • You start to get more than 3 headaches a week.
  • Severe headaches are debilitating and interfere with your daily life.

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

  1. eMedicineHealth. 5 types of headache.
  2. MayoClinic. Headache.
  3. Rev Pain. 2011 Dec; 5(4): 2–11.
  4. WebMD. Cluster headaches.
  5. WebMD. Anxiety and headaches: what’s the link?
  6. PatientInfo. Headache.
  7. BJMP. 2010;3(3):a337
  8. MedicineNet. Occipital neuralgia (headache).
  9. Medscape. Influenza clinical presentation.
  10. Medscape. Facial pain and headache.
  11. Medscape. Giant cell arteritis (temporal arteritis) clinical presentation.
  12. Pain Res Manag. 2017; 2017: 3203027.
  13. MedicineNet. Mastoiditis symptoms.
  14. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2006 Sep; 77(9): 1097–1099.
  15. J Headache Pain. 2011 Apr; 12(2): 147–155.
  16. HopkinsMedicine. Hangover
  17. BMC Res Notes. 2015; 8: 393.
  18. Cephalalgia. 2018 Jan 1:333102418764888.
  19. MedGenMed. 2004; 6(2): 45.
  20. Expert Rev Neurother.2003 May;3(3):289-92.
  21. MedicineNet. Migraine stroke.
  22. WebMD. When to call the doctor about your migraine or headaches.
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