Feel like your sinuses are under pressure? Cue Bowie and Queen🎵 — you may be dealing with a sinus headache.
Sinus headaches happen when your sinuses — basically the cavities behind your eyes, nose, cheeks, and forehead — become congested or inflamed. This puts pressure on these areas, causing a headache.
With these headaches, you may feel pain on either side or both sides of your head and anywhere in your sinus region.
Read on to learn what causes sinus headaches and how to make them go away for good.
Symptoms of a sinus headache can include:
- pain or pressure in your forehead, brow area, or cheeks
- swelling in your nose, forehead, or cheeks
- stuffy nose
- worsening pain whenever you lean forward
- yellow or green nasal discharge
- an achy feeling in your upper jaw
These headaches also share some symptoms with migraine, so it’s not uncommon to mistake a sinus headache for a migraine episode.
Migraine episodes are basically sinus headaches’ evil stepsibling. According to the American Migraine Foundation, sinus headache is the most common misdiagnosis people receive when they actually have migraine.
But even though sinus headaches and migraine seem so similar, some of their big symptoms differ.
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The most common cause of sinus headaches is sinusitis. Sinusitis happens when something triggers inflammation in your sinuses and nasal passages.
Common causes of sinusitis include:
- seasonal allergies
- sinus infections
- other bacterial or viral infections
- sinus blockages
Sinus headaches don’t care who you are — they can affect anyone. However, you run a higher risk of getting one if:
- You have a history of headaches or migraine.
- Migraine or headaches run in your family.
- You experience headaches during hormonal fluctuations.
When to talk with a doc about sinus pain
Sinus headaches can be a symptom of a sinus infection or another underlying condition. If your headache persists or you experience the following symptoms, it’s time to seek medical treatment:
- persistent high fever
- trouble breathing
- rattling in your chest
- discolored nasal discharge
A medical professional can figure out what’s causing your headaches and let you know what steps to take for some sweet sinus relief.
Several medications are available to treat a sinus headache, including both over-the-counter (OTC) options and doctor-prescribed meds.
OTC remedies only help ease symptoms, and you should check with your doc before taking anything. These meds don’t necessarily get to the root of the problem, meaning they won’t treat the underlying inflammation that’s causing your sinus pain.
OTC treatments include:
- Analgesics. Ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) are popular options for dealing with headache pain. They might also help with other symptoms, including fever or jaw pain.
- Decongestants. Options like oxymetazoline (Afrin) or pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) help loosen up the gunk clogging your sinuses, which can relieve pressure.
Your doc may also recommend one of these prescription meds:
- Antihistamines. An antihistamine can help provide relief from headaches caused by allergies.
- Mucolytics. These meds clear up any mucus causing sinus pressure and pain.
- Decongestants. To help you release pressure-inducing mucus, your doc can prescribe a stronger decongestant than you’d find in your local drugstore.
- Corticosteroid shots. If you’re dealing with chronic allergy-induced sinus headaches, your doc may suggest a corticosteroid.
Looking for an alternative to OTC or prescription meds? These natural remedies may also help with sinusitis and congestion:
- Run a humidifier. Adding some moisture to the air can help thin out congestion in your sinuses.
- Use a neti pot. A saline solution remedy can help irrigate your sinuses and clear out any mucus or discharge.
- Make it steamy. Inhaling steam can help drain your sinuses and ease pressure.
- Take bromelain. Pineapple juice contains this enzyme, which may help thin nasal secretions. (Just double-check with your doc that it won’t interact with any meds you’re taking.)
- Use stinging nettle. Plants and herbs like stinging nettle can easily be brewed into tea and may help relieve nasal inflammation from allergies.
- Use essential oils. An essential oil like eucalyptus may help open up your nasal passages and clear your sinuses.
Another way to soothe a sinus headache is to use pressure points to relieve sinus pressure.
- For sinus drainage: Tap or apply continuous pressure to the area at the bridge of your nose, right between your eyes. Do this for about 1 minute.
- For nasal drainage: Lightly press on both sides of your nose at the same time, and then tip your head forward and blow your nose. You can also try pushing the area under your eyes and above your cheekbones in and up.
You can do this with your hands or a tool such as a gua sha stone or facial roller.
Sinus headaches got you down? Depending on the frequency and severity of your headaches, there are ways to keep them at bay.
You can try:
- managing them with prescription medication
- making lifestyle changes like exercise, relaxation techniques, and drinking more water
- avoiding possible triggers such as allergens and hormonal meds
For extreme cases of chronic sinusitis, your doc might suggest nasal surgery.
Sinus headaches happen, but you don’t have to just deal with them (especially since you could have a sinus infection that needs treatment).
Talk with a medical professional about treatment options to help with your sinus headaches, and give home remedies a try for added relief.