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How To Tell The Difference Between Sinus Headaches And Migraines

by HealthStar Clinic | May 22, 2018 | Blog, Migraine |

Can you spot the difference between a migraine and a sinus headache? Both bring about similar symptoms, but getting the best treatment comes down to an accurate diagnosis. Be that as it may, the American Migraine Foundation reports that a self-diagnosed sinus headache is almost always, in reality, a migraine in disguise.

On the hunt for migraine relief in Montgomery or Prattville? You first need to understand what youre battling. Heres how to tell the difference between a sinus headache and migraine.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraines are more than simply bad headaches. Its actually considered a neurological disease that affects a staggering 39 million people in the U.S. Symptoms vary, but Healthline identifies these common ones:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Light and/or sound sensitivity
  • Seeing spots/vision disruptions

Migraines generally fall into one of two camps: with aura or without aura. In this scenario, the word aura points to subtle warning signs that usually precede a migraine. According to the National Headache Foundation, common auras include:

  • Visual symptoms
  • Tingling in one arm or leg

Sinus Headache Symptoms

Sinus headaches are tricky because the symptoms can sometimes mimic the ones associated with migraines. The most distinctive part of a sinus headache is that it happens alongside a sinus infection, so there are some specific things to look out for. According to WebMD, the biggest red flags are:

Best Steps On How To Get Rid Of A Headache Fast

Headaches can be a real pain, especially when they come out of nowhere or their occurrence is all too frequent. The worst part is that even if you lead an extremely healthy lifestyle, you may still be subject to headaches because they can be passed from generation to generation. It can be just a mild annoyance or pain so severe that you are out of commission for a few days at a time. Its no wonder why youd want to learn how to get rid of a headache fast.

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Summary Of Sinus Headaches

In summary, most sinus headache is migraine with sinus symptoms. Knowing this can help with getting the right diagnosis and treatment. Ultimately, this can help free you from the recurring burden of failed headache treatment and disability.

This article is a legacy contribution from the American Headache Society Committee for Headache Education and the Fred Sheftell, MD Education Center.

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What Are The Symptoms Of A Sinus Headache

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Sinus headaches are actually rather rare. They typically occur due to sinusitis, which is an inflammation of your sinuses. This can be caused by an infection, an allergy, or a nasal obstruction.

With sinus pain which may feel like headache pain you may have:

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Best For Tension Headaches: Peppermint Oil

People have been using peppermint medicinally for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular essential oils for treating headaches.

This review of published studies on essential oils states that applying peppermint oil to the temples and forehead helps ease tension headaches.

The active ingredient in peppermint oil is menthol research this substance also may be effective in treating migraine when a person applies it in gel form to the head.

However, the research on peppermint oil is very limited. Additionally, it allergic reactions and skin rashes when people apply it topically. It is also unclear whether pregnant or breastfeeding individuals can use it safely.

An example of a product available to purchase online is NOW Essential Oils 100% Pure Peppermint.

This oil is available in a 4 fl. oz bottle and is suitable for aromatherapy use and topical use with a carrier oil such as almond or jojoba oil.

This product has a list price of around $20.

The Difference Between A Migraine And A Sinus Headache

You find yourself in bed in the dark, having the worst headache of your life. Naturally, you want to know whats causing this pain so that you may resolve it. Migraines and sinus headaches are similar in that they can both cause severe pain and pressure around the face and head, but their divergent causes lead to different treatment approaches. This guide should help you tell the difference between a migraine and a sinus headache so that you can treat your symptoms correctly.

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Does It Make Sense To Try Home Sinus Remedies

If you suspect that you are experiencing sinusitis, there are a few things you can do to improve the symptoms, including headache, says Rajneesh. But if your efforts to relieve your symptoms are unsuccessful, consider seeing a doctor to help diagnose whats causing them.

Use a humidifier. By humidifying the air, you can get a decrease in sinus pressure, which should translate into decreased incidence of headaches, says Rajneesh.

Drink plenty of water. Hydrating is important, because it can help keep the mucus thin and loose, which can decrease infection and irritation, says Rajneesh.

Use a neti pot, but make sure youre using it correctly. A neti pot is a ceramic vessel with a spout that can be used to flush out nasal passages to relieve congested sinuses. Research published in 2016 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that people with chronic sinusitis who used a neti pot with a salt solution saw improvement in symptoms, including fewer headaches, and less use of over-the-counter medications.

Researchers also looked at people who inhaled steam this group had improvement in headaches as well, although no improvement was seen in any other sinus symptoms.

Try over-the-counter pain relievers.Analgesics such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help relieve the pain of a sinus headache. A nasal decongestant or steroid spray may help alleviate discomfort as well.

How Long Do Sinus Headaches Last

How to Tell if You Have a Sinus Headache

Viruses cause most sinus infections. A viral sinus infection typically resolves on its own. Similar to how the common cold clears up by itself, your sinus headache should feel better within about a week. If it doesnt go away, see your healthcare provider. You may have a bacterial or fungal sinus infection that requires medication.

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Preventive Medications And Treatments

A wide range of drugs may be prescribed to prevent migraine attacks from forming, and some medical treatments can help. Such approaches are considered especially in cases of chronic migraine, in which you have 15 or more headache episodes a month.

Several types of preventative migraine medications may be prescribed. The most common of these are:

  • Antiepileptic drugs: Depakote and Topamax
  • Calcium channel blockers: Calan
  • Calcitonin gene-related monoclonal antibodies: Vyepti and Ajovy

Additionally, in cases in which medications arent yielding results, Botox injections can be considered. In this therapy, doctors target specific areas in your forehead, temples, the sides and back of the head, and the neck. Though the frequency and intensity of migraines are reduced, the effect is temporary, and appointments are needed every three months.

When the condition is associated with the menstrual cycle, hormone replacement therapy may be attempted.

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What Are Sinus Headaches

Real sinus headaches are almost always from a sinus infection. Sinus infections are common with 10% to 30% of the population experiencing at least one sinus infection each year.

Sinus infections are also known as sinusitis or rhinosinusitis. This occurs when the sinus becomes inflamed. Common symptoms include thick nasal mucous, blocked nose and facial pain. Sinus infections may be caused by an infection, allergy or air pollution. Most cases are due to viral infection. Infections are often transmitted through coughing, sneezing, kissing, contact with contaminated surfaces, food or water or contact with infected animals or pets.

To understand how sinus headaches are confused with migraine its important to know what migraine is.

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Sinus Headache Vs Migraine

Pain with a runny or stuffy nose is the typical symptom of a sinus headache. But did you know that a migraine can also cause these symptoms? The difference is in the color of your mucus:

  • If your mucus is clear and runny, it could be a migraine.
  • Sinus headaches can be a sign of a sinus infection that causes your mucus to thicken and sometimes turn a yellowish color.

Sinus Pain Has A Variety Of Causes

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If your head is throbbing and you feel pressure around your eyes, cheeks, or forehead, you could have a sinus headache. Many factors can cause a sinus headache, says Subinoy Das, MD, chief executive officer and interim medical director for the U.S. Institute for Advanced Sinus Care and Research in Columbus, Ohio. The most important factor is swelling of the lining of the nose and sinuses, causing pressure and pain on in the face and head.

Symptoms of sinus pain and headache include pain associated with congestion from a common cold or allergies pain around your eyes, forehead, or over your teeth pain that is worse in the morning and pain that gets worse when you bend over. Some of the more natural methods of relieving sinus pain that reduce swelling, thin mucus secretions, and improve sinus drainage are often very helpful.

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Treatment For Sinus Pain

If you have pain thats caused by sinusitis, the following self-care measures may help ease your symptoms:

  • Inhaling steam.Inhaling steamy air may help loosen mucus and ease inflammation. You can do this by draping a towel over your head and leaning over a bowl of warm water. Standing in a warm, steamy shower may also help.
  • Using a nasal wash. A nasal wash is a saline solution and helps to flush out your sinuses. You can buy saline washes over-the-counter or make your own at home.
  • Taking OTC medications. Various OTC medications may help relieve symptoms like pain, inflammation, and sinus congestion:
  • pain medications like ibuprofen , naproxen , and acetaminophen
  • nasal decongestants, such as Sudafed and Mucinex Sinus Max
  • nasal corticosteroids like Flonase and Nasacort

Sinus Headache Home Remedy: Steamy Shower

Standing in a steamy shower and breathing deeply will also open up the nasal passages and allow for drainage and lead to sinus headache relief. Breathing warm, moist air can expand and soothe the sinus cavity, per the CDC. Its a great remedy for first thing in the morning when youre hopping in the shower anyway. Heres what else to do if you wake up with a headache.

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The Specialists At Kaplan Sinus Relief Can Help You Distinguish Between A Sinus Headache Vs Migraine

Whether youre dealing with a sinus headache vs. a migraine, youre likely experiencing a lot of discomfort. When youre unsure of your symptoms, or whats causing them, its always best to get a medical professionals opinion.

If you are looking for long-term sinus headache relief, Michael Kaplan, M.D., the founding sinus specialist of Kaplan Sinus Relief, has just the solution for you: balloon sinuplasty. Balloon sinuplasty in Houston when performed by Dr. Kaplan is a quick, minimally invasive, and virtually painless procedure that uses a small balloon to restore proper drainage to the sinuses. This procedure gets to the root of sinus problems and can make painful sinus headaches a thing of the past.

Interested in learning more? Call 766-1818 or schedule an appointment online with Kaplan Sinus Relief.

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Migraines Are More Than Just Headaches

Sinus Headache vs Migraine

Dr. Brian Grosberg, director of the Hartford Healthcare Headache Center and program director of the Headache and Facial Pain Fellowship in the Department of Neurology at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, affirmed to me, A migraine is more than just a headache.

How so? In very complex ways, thats how! It is a neurological condition with a complex process that begins in the brain and produces many symptoms beyond headache, Dr. Grosberg stated. People who have migraine are born with a nervous system that processes information differently than those who do not have migraine. Their brains are more excitable, reacting to light and sound and other stimuli at a lower threshold than the brain of someone without migraine.

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How To Tell The Difference Between A Migraine And A Sinus Headache

An actual sinus headache, also called rhinosinusitis, is not as common as most people think. The most common causes of a sinus headache are viral or bacterial infections. These infections can cause yellowish thick nasal discharge, diminished smell/ taste, fever, headaches, bad breath, cough, and pain in the teeth or ears. The typical treatment includes antibiotics and should clear up within seven days.

Migraines, on the other hand, are more than just bad headaches. According to The American Migraine Foundation, migraines affect at least 39 million patients in the U.S. alone. But, as many people do not have a correct diagnosis, the real number is potentially much larger. The most common symptoms of migraines include headaches accompanied by pounding or throbbing sensation, sensitivity to light, sound, or other stimuli, nausea, nasal congestion with thin, clear mucus, and fatigue.

Its an excellent idea to schedule a visit with your doctor when your headaches grow worse over time or become more frequent when over-the-counter medication ceases to provide relief and begins to interfere with your ability to function at a normal level.

Use Meds In Moderation

Pharmacy shelves are stocked with pain relievers for all kinds of headaches. To get the most benefit with the least risk, follow the directions on the label and these guidelines:

  • Choose liquid over pills. Your body absorbs it faster.
  • Avoid ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs if you have heart failure or kidney failure.
  • Do not give aspirin to a child under age 18.
  • Take painkillers as soon as you start to hurt. Youâll probably beat it with a smaller dose than if you wait.
  • If you get sick to your stomach when you get a headache, ask your doctor what might help.
  • Ask your doctor what to take to avoid a rebound headache, which is pain that sets in after a few days of pain relievers.

And be sure to talk to your doctor about what headache symptoms you should not treat at home.

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The Key To Understanding How A Sinus Headache Differs From A Migraine: Be Aware Of Other Symptoms Of Sinus Infection

The sinus cavities become problematical when congestion takes hold, resulting in the pain we know as a sinus headache.

When you start to feel a pain at the front of your head, down behind your eyes and nose, you may be developing a sinus headache. But youve had migraine headaches before and they feel similar. How can you tell them apart? Is there such thing as a sinus migraine?

Though a sinus headache and a migraine share some common symptoms, you can often diagnose the problem if the headache is accompanied by other symptoms of sinus infection. You can also eliminate sinuses as the cause of your discomfort if the pain includes typical migraine symptoms, including nausea and a sensitivity to light.

Interestingly, a migraine headache is often misdiagnosed as a sinus headache, both by headache sufferers and physicians, says Robert Kaniecki, MD, assistant professor and director of the Headache Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. A review of a number of studies suggests that far more people actually suffer migraine headaches than popularly thought, he says. Many people who are diagnosed as having tension or sinus headaches are, in fact, suffering migraines.

Making the distinction is important, because it affects how you should treat your headache.

Get A Good Nights Sleep

How to Really Tell Whether You Have a Migraine

Sleep has been proven to bolster the T cells in your body that fight off infection, says Dr. Nasseri. Bonus tip: To minimize congestion, adjust your sleep position. Use an extra pillow to prop up your head. Keeping your head elevated while you sleep can help drain mucus and relieve some of the pressure.

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How To Tell If You Have A Headache Sinus Pain Or A Migraine

Headaches in any form can be disruptive to our lives, but not all of them are the same.

According to experts, most people dont know the difference between various types of headaches, like sinus headaches and migraines. That can make a painful situation so much worse.

Knowing which issue youre dealing with is vital to treating it. So HuffPost reached out to the experts to help walk you through the differences, dispel some myths and help you learn more about what you may be experiencing. Here are the different types and what you can do about each of them:

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