Relieving The Sinus Headache Pain
Some sinus problems can be prevented with regular use of a Neti pot or other rinsing agent to keep your nasal and sinus passages moist.
Once you have that sinus pain, you can relieve the headache with acetaminophen-based products, like BC® Sinus Pain & Congestion powder, that contain acetaminophen as well as an antihistamine and nasal decongestant to help relieve congestion, runny nose and sinus pain.
If your symptoms dont respond to over-the-counter remedies, you think you have a sinus infection or you have other chronic health conditions, be sure to talk to your doctor to get the treatment you need.
Why Do We Misdiagnose Migraine As Sinus Headache
Research studies show common sinus symptoms occur with migraine. In one study, 45% of migraine patients had at least one symptom of either nasal congestion or watery eyes. Migraine is also underdiagnosed and undertreated, meaning that a self-diagnosis of migraine is less likely.
A study involving almost 3,000 patients was important in evaluating the frequent complaint of sinus headache. In this study, the participants had at least six sinus headaches in the six months prior to entrance into the study. They had neither a migraine diagnosis nor treatment with a migraine-specific medication. What were the results? Eighty-eight percent of the participants had migraine and not sinus headaches.
Another study, called the American Migraine Study II, showed that many people who were diagnosed with migraine thought they had sinus headache. Significantly, there were almost 30,000 study participantsonly about 50% who were diagnosed with migraine knew they had migraine before the study. The most common misdiagnosis was sinus headache.
Pain Or Pressure In Your Sinuses
Facial pain is a common symptom of sinusitis. You have several different sinuses above and below your eyes, as well as behind your nose. Any of these air-filled cavities can hurt when you have a sinus infection.
Inflammation and swelling can cause your sinuses to ache with dull pressure. This is because inflammation may alter the typical path of mucus from the nose to the back of the throat.
You may feel pain in:
- on either side of your nose
- in your upper jaws and teeth
- between your eyes
This may lead to a headache. Headaches caused by sinus infections can occur where the sinuses are or in other places.
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Eye Symptoms Linked To Sinusitis
In addition to eye pain or sinus pain behind the eyes, there are other eye symptoms that may be caused by sinusitis or other sinus issues. These may include:
Sinus pressure and eye pain A sinus infection may cause you to feel pain behind your eyes or around the eye area on your face. This may feel like pain in your eyes or a headache behind your eyes.
Sinus pressure and eye watering In some cases, a chronic sinus infection can lead to watery eyes . But these symptoms may also be caused by many other conditions. For example, a cold or allergies may cause eye watering and a feeling of stuffiness or pressure. And a cluster headache can similarly cause pressure, watery eyes and stuffy nose.
Sinus pressure and swollen eyes A sinus infection can also lead to eyelid swelling and eye puffiness. This can occur when the sinuses between and below your eyes may become inflamed and clogged with mucus. The swelling typically goes away as your sinusitis improves with treatment.
Sinus problems such as chronic sinusitis can also cause blurry vision, vision loss and other problems due to optic nerve damage caused by chronic inflammation, although this is rare.
In some cases, eye symptoms can be a sign of a sinus infection spreading to the eye, or other serious sinus infection complications.
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How To Do A Nasal Rinse
Nasal saline rinses are a good way to treat discomfort and congestion. They can help flush out mucus, debris, and irritants, and soothe nasal passages.
A neti pot can be used to do this. You fill a pot with a saline rinse that you can buy.
- Place the spout of the pot against one nostril.
- Tilt your head to the side.
- The saline will pour out of the lower nostrilthanks to gravity.
- Repeat steps with the other nostril.
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What Causes Sinus Headaches
Sinus infections cause sinus headaches. Anything that makes mucus buildup in the sinuses can lead to a sinus infection, such as:
- The common cold is most often to blame.
- Seasonal allergies trigger mucus production.
- Nasal polyps, abnormal growths in the nose or sinuses. Nasal polyps can block mucus from draining.
- Deviated septum, which is when the line of cartilage and bone down the center of the nose isnt straight. A deviated septum can prevent mucus from properly draining.
Too much mucus gives germs an opportunity to grow. As germs build up, they irritate the sinuses. In response, sinus tissue swells, blocking the passage of mucus. Swollen, irritated sinuses filled with liquid make your face feel tender and achy.
Are Sinus Infections Contagious
- Doctors and researchers disagree about whether or not sinus infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and occasionally fungi, are contagious, except in rare instances.
- Some doctors believe that sinus infections caused by bacteria, viruses, or fungi can be transferred to other people, and can occasionally cause sinus infections.
- Most doctors agree that most people with sinus infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi are not contagious so you cannot get it from another person, with the exception in rare instances.
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Your Sinus Headache May Not Be What You Think
Topics in this Post
Nearly everyone experiences a headache at some point, and the pain can range from mild to debilitating.
Sometimes, headaches are accompanied by pain and pressure in your brow and forehead, and cause nasal symptoms. Many people associate sinus and nasal symptoms with a sinus infection, also called sinusitis, or with an upper respiratory infection, a cold. They may say that they are experiencing a sinus headache. But sinus and nasal symptoms often can signal something else: a migraine headache.
The term “sinus headache” is not an actual medical diagnosis. Studies show that 90% of people with symptoms of a sinus headache are experiencing migraine headaches.
Sinusitis or migraine?
Migraines and headaches from sinusitis are easy to confuse because the signs and symptoms of the two types of headaches may overlap. Also, migraine headaches affect people differently and symptoms can change over time. This is why many who have had migraine headaches in the past are surprised when they begin having sinus and nasal symptoms with a migraine headache.
Sinusitis, however, usually isn’t associated with nausea or vomiting, nor is it aggravated by noise or bright light all common features of migraines.
These are a few ways you can tell whether your sinus and nasal symptoms are part of a sinus infection or part of a migraine headache:
- Confusion or trouble understanding speech
What Actually Is Sinusitis
It is an inflammation of the tissue lining you sinuses located behind the trestle of your nose, inside your cheekbones, and forehead see the following image, credit to WebMD.
Sinuses are normally filled with air, thats why they are also often called as air-filled cavities. In sinusitis, the sinuss lining tissue gets inflamed and swollen, blocking the flow of mucus that normally drains into the nose. As a result, there will be bacteria, fungi, or viruses that can overgrow and cause an infection, worsening the problem.
This blockage can be triggered by a number of causes, such as allergic reaction, common cold, or particular disorders . People with a condition that weakens their body immune system are also at high risk. If the immune system is not as strong as usual, the infection is relatively easier to develop.
There are several different types of sinusitis. These include:
Fortunately, it is usually harmless and the treatment is not always necessary. Even many times, it responds to lifestyle measures .
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Headache Caused By A Medication Or Illness
Some headaches are actually symptoms of another health problem. Many non-life-threatening medical conditions, such as a head cold, the flu, or a sinus infection, can cause headache. Some less common but serious causes include bleeding, infection, or a tumor. A headache can also be the only warning signal of high blood pressure . In addition, certain medications, such as nitroglycerin and female hormones are notorious causes of headache.
Because the following symptoms could indicate a significant medical problem, seek medical care promptly if you experience:
- a sudden headache that feels like a blow to the head
- headache with fever
- persistent headache following a blow to the head
- confusion or loss of consciousness
- headache along with pain in the eye or ear
- relentless headache when you were previously headache-free
- headache that interferes with routine activities.
Always take children who have recurring headaches to the doctor, especially when the pain occurs at night or is present when the child wakes in the morning.
Common types of headaches
How To Treat A Sinus Headache
The best way to get rid of a sinus headache is by treating the underlying cause of the headachethe sinusitis. For sinus problems lasting less than 7-10 days, the cause is usually viral and can be treated with home remedies and if needed, over-the-counter medications. Here are some at-home remedies that may relieve your symptoms:
- Hydrate and rest: Drink ample fluids and rest.
- Breathing steam: Warm moist air by using a humidifier, breathing in warm mist from a hot shower or steaming bath, or applying a warm washcloth over your face.
- Saline nasal flushes: Using a bottle sprayer, Neti pot, or syringe, the saline fluid flushes out the nose and sinus cavities to help with sinus pressure and congestion. Be sure to use sterile saline water for safety reasons.
In addition to those at-home treatments, you may also require:
- Over-the-counter medications: Medications such as ibuprofen , naprosyn , and acetaminophen can lessen pain and inflammation. Please be cautious with these medications if you have liver, kidney, or blood pressure issues, or are on blood thinners.
- Doctors visit: If the sinus problems still have not gone away after 7-10 days , it may be a sign of bacteria causing your sinus infection, and you should see your doctor who may recommend an antibiotic.
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Sinus Headache Or Migraine How To Tell The Difference
When you have a headache, it can be hard to pinpoint the cause. Is it a sinus headache? Is it a migraine? While it may not matter to you in the aching, painful moment, understanding the difference between the two can help you to manage your pain more effectively.
Although sinus headaches and migraines share symptoms and other characteristics, the two headaches have distinct diagnoses. About 90 percent of self-diagnosed sinus headaches are actually migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation.
Why Do I Have A Headache That Wont Go Away
First things first: If your headache wont go away, you need to figure out if its a sinus headache that wont go away or something else. Sinus headaches are caused by a buildup of pressure in sinus cavities that have become inflamed and are blocking regular mucus drainage.
Sinus headaches are often accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Feeling of pressure and/or throbbing around your sinuses
- Increased pain upon bending over
- Toothache in your upper teeth
Many of these symptoms, including congestion and increased pain upon bending over, can also be found in patients struggling with migraines. However, migraines are unlikely to last more than a few hours, whereas untreated sinus headaches can last for days at a time.
For more information about what might be behind your latest sinus headache, reference these additional posts:
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Which Muscles Are At Fault
Headaches on the top of the head especially tension headaches and migraines are typically caused by just a few muscles.
The first is a group of muscles called suboccipital muscles, which are responsible for movement between the first and second vertebrae in the neck and the skull. These muscles can become tense due to factors like grinding your teeth, eye strain, or poor posture. This alone can trigger tension headaches and migraines. If these muscles become too tense, they can compress the occipital nerve, causing occipital neuralgia.
The splenius cervicus and splenius capitus muscles, which run up the neck, can also cause headache pain at the top of the head if theyre too tight. Tension in these muscles can also cause a stiff neck or neck pain in addition to headaches.
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What Are Sinus Headache Treatment Options
When wanting to know how to treat a sinus headache, you’re likely to begin by seeing your family physician, particularly if youre experiencing chronic sinus headaches. They might refer you to a neurologist who specializes in migraines and headaches. Your physician might suggest treating the pain as well as the underlying causes of your sinus headache at the same time.
Some sinus headache treatment options include:
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Sinus Headache: Signs Symptoms And Treatment Options
Around 70% to 80% of the population in the United States experience headaches, with 50% experiencing a minimum of one headache each month, 15% a minimum of one a week and 5% every day. The occurrence of headaches increases dramatically when you’re in your 20s. After that it levels off until you reach between the age of 40 through 50 years old, after which it reduces.
How Migraines Are Different
Migraines are much more common than sinus headaches, affecting about 15 percent of adults in America. The reason migraines are often mistaken for sinus headaches is that both can cause facial pain and a runny nose. The difference? With migraines, nasal discharge is thin and clear instead of thick and discolored.
Aside from different kinds of nasal discharge, a big difference between migraines and sinus headaches is that a migraine pain can happen in many areas. While sinus headaches are primarily felt in the face, migraines can cause pain around the temples, high in the forehead or in the back of your head. They often occur on only one side of the head, while sinus headaches are usually felt on both sides of the face.
Another distinguishing characteristic of migraines is that they frequently cause a throbbing or pulsing pain, as opposed to the pressure of sinus headaches.
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What Are The Treatment Options
Your primary care provider, or a neurologist, can provide recommendations for treating your headaches based on their severity and frequency, and can rule out more serious causes of your headache. Treatment for migraines includes both over-the-counter and prescription medications and preventative medications for patients with severe or frequent headaches, or if headaches are present for more than 15 days per month.
Over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also be associated with rebound headaches or medication-overuse headaches if taken too often. Tell your doctor how often you take pain medications for headaches. Avoid triggers, and talk to your doctor about your sleep habits. Keep a headache diary to record your headache symptoms, triggers, and treatments.
Sinus headaches caused by migraines or tension headaches should not be treated with antibiotics. Because there are similar symptoms between acute sinusitis and migraine headaches with nasal and sinus symptoms, it can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are truly a sinus infection. Sinus pain and pressure without discolored nasal discharge is most likely not a sinus infection. If you have been diagnosed with frequent sinus infections and have been treated with repeated episodes of antibiotics without improvement, migraines or tension headaches could be causing your sinus pain and pressure.
Cleaning The Nose With Salt Water
A 2019 review found some indication that saltwater solutions can treat sinusitis. However, the researchers state that there was not enough evidence to confirm it helps or the best delivery method.
People can purchase nasal rinsing kits with premixed saltwater solutions. Alternatively, they can make the solution at home. To do this:
People should dispose of any leftover salt water, and make a fresh solution if using this technique repeatedly. A person should also clean any nasal irrigation devices thoroughly after each use. People should not use nasal rinses in children unless instructed by a doctor.
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