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Can Tension Headaches Be on One Side?

Last updated on January 6th, 2023 at 12:08 pm

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Headaches are incredibly common and they affect almost 50% of the world’s adult population. There are different types of headaches that can affect an individual. Some affect your entire headache while some only hurt one side of your head. Usually, headaches happen due to stress, lack of sleep, tension, injury, and other reasons.

Do you often experience dull pain on one side of your head? If yes, then you might be dealing with tension headaches or cluster headaches. They are the type of headaches that usually affect one side of your head and cause throbbing pain to either the right or left part of your head.

In this article, we will talk more about tension headaches and whether or not they can affect one side of your head. Read on!

Can tension headaches be on one side?

Tension headaches are the type of headaches that affect the back of your side, side of your neck, etc. People who experience tension headaches often complain of feeling tightness, muscle tension, and dull pain around their forehead and the back of their neck.

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Tension headaches can be of two types:

  • Episodic headaches: One that happens for less than 15 days a month.
  • Chronic headaches: These headaches happen for more than 15 days every month and can be extremely severe in nature.

Generally, tension headaches affect both sides of the head, thereby making you lose focus and feel irritated. However, in certain conditions tension headaches can be on one side of the head too. While one-sided headaches are nothing to worry about, if you experience them too frequently, it’s wise to visit a headache specialist and get a treatment plan from them.

Headache on the right side of the head only

If you frequently get severe headaches only on the right side of the head, then it can happen due to migraine, cluster headaches, or tension headaches.

Right-sided headaches can generally be of two types, primary headaches, and secondary headaches. Let’s have a quick look at each of them:

  • Primary headaches: These are the types of headaches that happen on their own. What we mean is that these headaches are not triggered by any secondary factor. For example, migraine.
  • Secondary headaches: These are headaches that are caused by other secondary factors like sinus infections, trauma, head injury, and more.

Headache on right side of head and eye

As we said, headaches on the right side of your head and eye can be of two types: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Both of these headaches are further classified into different conditions and can result in different side effects.

Let’s have a look at the major ones:

The major types of primary headaches include the following:

  • Migraine: Symptoms include vomiting, nausea, nose congestion, anxiety, neck stiffness, etc.
  • Cluster headache: Tight muscles and muscle contractions around the neck, facial sweating, eye tearing, etc.
  • Paroxysmal Hemicrania: Facial swelling, eye redness, runny nose, throbbing pain on the forehead, etc.
  • Hemicrania Continua: Sweating or flushing, anxiety, restlessness, eyelid swelling, etc.
  • Sinus headache: Major symptoms of this type of headache includes

The most common type of headache that is secondary in nature includes the following:

  • Cervicogenic headache: This is caused by bone or joint problems in your neck and can result in a sharp pain that starts from the back of your neck and can spread through the front of your forehead.
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia: It is a specific condition that only affects the right side of your head. It is a very rare condition that happens due to the inflammation of the trigeminal nerve.
  • Giant cell arteritis or GCA: While this is not a headache, it is a medical condition that is caused due to the inflammation of blood vessels. It usually affects your medium and large-sized arteries and can result in throbbing and sharp pain in the right side of your head.

Headache on the left side of the head behind the eye

Migraine and cluster headaches are one of the biggest reasons for causing chronic headaches on the left side of the head and behind your eyes. The symptoms of such headaches usually include dull pain behind your left eye, neck and head stiffness that makes physical activity difficult, anxiety, and stuffy and runny nose.

While common left-sided headaches usually subside within an hour or two, if they remain persistent, it can be a sign of some underlying condition. If you experience them frequently along with other side effects like visual disturbances, vomiting, etc, you should consult with your healthcare provider. Make sure to maintain a headache diary, record your symptoms and their frequency, and then discuss them with your doctor.

Tension headache on right side

Tension-type headaches are one of the most common types of primary headaches. They often result due to muscle tension and contraction of neck and scalp muscles. Generally, tension-type headaches cause pain to your entire head and not just one side.

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However, in extremely rare cases, these headaches can also affect one side of your head too. People dealing with tension headaches often feel a gripping sensation around their heads, along with sharp and throbbing pain. Such headaches also come with sound sensitivity and light sensitivity where loud noises and bright lights can feel irritating. However, this doesn’t last long.

Sharp pain on the right side of the head that comes and goes

Such a condition is known as an ice-pick headache. It is a severe and sharp throbbing pain that can affect one side or your entire head. The main characteristic of such a headache is an extremely sharp pain that often feels like stabbing.

Ice-pick headaches only last for a few seconds – 20 to 120 seconds to be precise. However, their frequency can vary. Some people can even feel them 50 times per day! Since this pain is extremely excruciating, it is recommended to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

Waking up with a headache on the right side of the head

Do you often wake up with a severe headache on the right side of your head? If yes, then it is recommended to visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

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Depending on your symptoms and health conditions, the doctor may recommend you get get a CT scan. This will give them more clarity about your condition and will help them devise an effective treatment plan.

Sometimes, headaches can also result from an overdose of counter medications like ibuprofen or aspirin. So, if you are consuming any of these counter medicines, make sure to discuss this with your doctor and do not self-medicate.

Headache on the top right side of the head

Do you experience frequent headaches on the right side of your head? If yes, then there are certain things that you can do to get rid of it.

The best way to get rid of headaches that affect the right side of your head is by taking proper rest. Lack of sleep or stress can often result in right-sided headaches. Other ways to get rid of your headache are:

  • Compressing the area of pain with an ice pack
  • Practicing deep breathing techniques
  • Limiting your consumption of alcohol
  • Quitting smoking
  • Having a proper and healthy diet

FAQ relating to tension headaches on one side

1. What is the main reason for one side headache?

One side headaches, also known as cluster headaches are a neurological condition that commonly happens due to stress, tension, head injury, or fatigue.

However, in rare cases, a cluster headache can also be an indication of serious medical conditions like a brain tumor, fluctuation in your blood sugar level, and more. Usually, occasional one side headaches are nothing serious and can be treated with home remedies or some prescription medicines.

2. How do you get rid of a tension headache on one side?

If you take a lot of stress or are dealing with issues like anxiety, having tension headaches becomes common. There are several ways to get rid of these headaches through daily activities. We are listing down some major ones:

  1. Take a long and hot shower to relieve your tension and get rid of tension-type headaches.
  2. Make sure to get enough sleep and get rid of all negative and upsetting thoughts.
  3. Use an ice-pack
  4. Manage your stress levels through proper diet, regular exercise, and positive thinking.

3. Is it normal to only get headaches on one side?

Well, that depends on your overall health conditions and the frequency and severity of your cluster headaches.

Occasional headaches on one side can happen due to increased stress, anxiety, head injury, or lack of sleep. They are temporary and often vanish once your body relaxes or your body heals from the injury. Such headaches are quite normal and often there is no need to worry because of them.

However, if you get severe headaches on the side of your head frequently along with other symptoms like loss of vision, double vision, weight loss, vomiting, etc make sure to consult your health care provider. It is because this can be an indication of a more serious health condition.

4. What kind of headache hurts on one side?

There are different types of headaches including cluster headaches, secondary headaches, migraine headaches, rebound headaches, and more.

The headaches that hurt on the side are called cluster headaches or tension headaches. Sometimes, migraines can also affect one side of your head, making you feel sharp abd throbbing pain there.

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